The Boy Scouts of America has announced that it plans to review its prohibition of gay scout leaders within the organization, but insisted that, so far, no plans have been made to change its 102-year-old policy.
The decision to review the policy comes a week after an Eagle Scout with two lesbian mothers, 20-year-old Zach Wahls, delivered more than 275,000 signed petitions, which included some notable celebrity names, asking for the organization to reconsider allowing gay persons to serve as leaders.
"While we'll carefully consider this resolution, there are no plans to change this policy," Deron Smith, the Scouts' public relations director, said Wednesday. He added hat the issue was a long-standing one that has been debated often.
"While the BSA does not proactively inquire about sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA," Smith said when the Boy Scouts first received the petitions and held a meeting with Wahls on May 31.
If the policy is indeed changed, local Boy Scouts chapters will have the power to decide on their own whether they will allow gay leaders, MSNBC reported.
"Up to the day they end this policy, they'll be saying they have no plans to do so," speculated Wahls. "But there's no question it's costing the Boy Scouts in terms of membership and public support."
Despite the Boy Scouts making no indication that there was a serious threat for such a change in policy, Wahls explained to The Associated Press Wednesday that he was "absolutely ecstatic" that his request will at least be under review.
"Clearly this shows that there's a little bit more internal discussion than they might be outwardly describing, so in a very real sense this was in a lot of ways kind of the best possible, most realistic outcome of that delivery of that Change.org petition," he said. Wahl was referencing the signatures he delivered that were originally started on a petition on the website in support of Jennifer Tyrrell, a 32-year-old Scout den mother in Ohio who was removed from her position because she was revealed to be a lesbian.
"It's kind of hard to believe really that ... we are finding ourselves in this place, but here we are," Wahls added.
Smith of the Boy Scouts revealed that any decision was likely to be reached by May 2013, but again insisted that the review was simply to respect different viewpoints.
"There has been discussion about the BSA's membership policy for decades. The BSA respectfully considers a wide range of views on this issue. Scouting has concluded its longstanding policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA's members," Smith explained. "Scouting believes same-sex attraction should be introduced and discussed outside of its youth program with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting. The vast majority of parents we serve value this right."
Jennifer Tyrell said that she felt positive about the decision to review the policy against homosexual leaders. "The fact that they're moving along with the country and with the times and with the needs and wants of the American people, is a huge step and I'm super, super excited to be a tiny part of that," she expressed.
The Boy Scouts of America has more than 62 million Cub Scouts and over 33 million adult volunteers.