- (Photo: REUTERS/Darrell Byers)
As it prepares to vote on its ban of openly gay members in May, the Boy Scouts of America youth organization recently rejected an application for troop sponsorship by the Utah Pride Center, an LGBT advocacy group based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Boy Scouts of America said in statement to multiple media outlets that it is currently focusing on an "internal discussion about its membership standards," and did not believe the Utah Pride Center's chartering of a troop would be beneficial to the organization.
"The BSA is engaged in an internal discussion about its membership standards policy and is working to stay focused on Scouting's mission," Deron Smith, public relations director for the century-old youth organization, said in an emailed statement to The Salt Lake Tribune.
"Based on the mission of this organization (Utah Pride Center) we do not believe a chartered partner relationship is beneficial to Scouting."
The Utah Pride Center claims that this recent request to sponsor a troop was not a stunt, arguing that it agreed to comply with the organization's membership standards of banning homosexual scouts and leaders.
Valerie Larabee, executive director for the Utah Pride Center, told NBC News that she and her nonprofit organization thought the BSA would be a great opportunity for those youth seeking a "safe place," in a similar way that the youth attending the Utah Pride Center are seeking a safe place.
"We assume that [the youth are] here because they think this is a safe place and as a safe place we think that we can offer an incredible opportunity to young people who want to be involved in BSA," Larabee told NBC News.
Nile Eatmon, a member of the BSA's Great Salt Lake Council's executive committee, told The Salt Lake Tribune that he was surprised the Utah Pride Center's application for sponsorship had been denied, especially because the application complied with BSA standards in that all "the adult members and youth that were submitted with the application were straight."
The center's application, which was submitted in February and returned in early March, included the names of 10 middle school-age boys wishing to join the troop, and was reportedly meant as an alternative for parents who wanted their children to be a part of the BSA but opposed the BSA's open homosexuality ban.
The Boy Scouts of America's national executive board announced in late January that it was considering revising its ban on open homosexuality membership, suggesting that it would leave the decision of admitting openly gay members up to individual troop leaders.
The executive board then decided to postpone its vote until May, to allow more ample time for discussion.
As The Associated Press notes, the youth organization has sent out a questionnaire to nearly 1.1 million adult Scouts throughout the country, asking them hypothetical questions relating to their approval of open homosexuality in scout troops.
Four of five adults and parents in the Great Salt Lake Council, one of the largest councils in the country with over 73,000 youth members, said they are opposed to lifting the ban on open homosexuality, according to AP.
The Family Research Council, along with 41 other allied organizations, has urged the BSA to keep the gay ban, encouraging the organization to "not surrender to financial or political pressures by corporate elites on the issue of homosexuality."
In May, nearly 1,400 members of the Boy Scout's National Council will vote to either keep or lift the gay ban.