Six months after the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its long-standing ban on gays, the organization signaled Monday that it might retreat from that prohibition and allow local groups to decide.
The proposed policy shift, which the Scouts’ national board will discuss next week in Irving, Texas, follows a decades-long effort to exclude homosexual boys and adult leaders. It also coincides with growing public support for gay rights and pressure on the Scouts from corporations, some local governments and even members of its board to eliminate the ban.
“The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic or educational organizations that oversee and deliver scouting to determine how to address this issue," spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement. “The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents."
The proposed change — which is likely to be opposed by some religious organizations and others — is the result of “a longstanding dialogue within the Scouting family," Smith said.
“Last year Scouting realized the policy caused some volunteers and chartered organizations ... to act in conflict with their missions, principles or religious beliefs," he said. “It’s important to note this policy would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs."
Although Smith said there was no particular impetus for the proposed change, society’s attitudes are shifting. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll conducted in December found that 51 percent favored or strongly favored same-sex marriage, with 40 percent opposed. In 2004, the same poll found 30 percent in favor and 61 percent against.