(Photo: REUTERS/Tim Sharp)
The Boy Scouts of America decided to delay its anticipated vote on allowing openly gay people to serve as team leaders of troops until May.
"After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy," the group said Wednesday morning.
"To that end, the National Executive Board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting's membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers' work on a resolution on membership standards. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the National Council will take action on the resolution at the National Annual Meeting in May 2013."
The delay will give the organization more time to weigh in the positives and negatives to a major policy change. Despite mounting pressure from liberal groups, the BSA held firm for years in their traditional policy of not allowing openly gay members and leaders. Last month, however, the national organization said that they are considering whether to start allowing local chapters to make their own decisions on membership and leaders.
The proposed policy change has been hailed by President Barack Obama, who said on Sunday ahead of the NFL final: "I think that my attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life."
Many conservative groups have openly opposed the proposal, however, with the Family Research Council and 41 other allied organizations releasing an ad earlier this week urging the BSA not to compromise on their time-honored policy.
The FRC argued in a statement that BSA needs to stand firm on its timeless values and "not surrender to financial or political pressures by corporate elites on the issue of homosexuality."
"Every American who believes in freedom of thought and religious liberty should be alarmed by the attacks upon the Boy Scouts, whose oath includes that members should be 'morally straight,'" the ad says. "To compromise moral principles under political and financial pressure would teach the boys cowardice, not courage."
America's largest churches, many of whom sponsor Boy Scout troops, have also expressed various opinions on the matter, with the larger, more conservative churches advising the BSA to hold on to their traditions. The Roman Catholic Church and Southern Baptist churches have criticized the proposed policy change, but more liberal groups like the United Church of Christ, as well as leaders from the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have called on the ban on gay members to be dropped.