The Boy Scouts of America's national executive board has delayed a decision on whether to lift its longstanding ban on gay scouts and leaders.
BSA said Wednesday the organization will take action on the resolution at its national meeting in May.
The organization said last week it was considering a shift of its policy, which has led officials to remove gay leaders and scouts. That announcement pushed years of debate over the policy to an even higher level.
The BSA released the following statement Wednesday morning:
"For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, providing it’s youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public. It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization.
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.
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. "
President Barack Obama -- Scouting's honorary president -- spoke in favor of letting gay scouts in. Others opposed a shift. Protesters on both sides rallied at BSA headquarters in Irving.
Scout leaders across the country will now have to decide how to handle a very delicate issue.
BSA announced last week it was considering allowing troops to decide whether to allow gay membership. That news has placed a spotlight on executive board meetings that began Monday in Irving, where scouting headquarters is located.
BSA spokesman Deron Smith said last week that the board could take a vote Wednesday or decide to discuss the policy, but the organization would issue a statement either way. Otherwise, the board has remained silent, with reporters barred from the hotel where its meetings are taking place.
At nearby BSA headquarters, a handful of Scouts and leaders delivered petitions Monday in support of letting gay members join. The conservative group Texas Values, meanwhile, says it has organized a Wednesday morning prayer vigil urging the Scouts to keep their policy the same.
President Barack Obama, an opponent of the policy, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an Eagle Scout who supports it, both have weighed in.
"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," said Obama, who as U.S. president is the honorary president of BSA, in a Sunday interview with CBS.
Perry, the author of the book "On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For," said in a speech Saturday that "to have popular culture impact 100 years of their standards is inappropriate."
The board faces several choices, none of which is likely to quell controversy. Standing pat would go against the public wishes of two high-profile board members -- Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson -- who run companies with nondiscrimination policies and have said they would work from within to change the Scouts' policy.
Gay rights organizations have been successful in getting businesses like UPS to pull their funding from scouting due to the ban.
Conservatives have warned of mass defections if Scouting allows gay membership to be determined by troops. Local and regional leaders, as well as the leadership of churches that sponsor troops, would be forced to consider their own policies. And policy opponents who delivered four boxes of signatures to BSA headquarters Monday said they wouldn't be satisfied by only a partial acceptance of gay scouts and leaders.
"We don't want to see Scouting gerrymandered into blue and red districts," said Brad Hankins, campaign director of Scouts for Equality.
Protesters Clash in Irving
Despite the delay in the decision, a rally continued as planned in front of BSA headquarters on Wednesday.
Dozens of people protested any change to the organizations current anti-gay policy.
Pastors, scout leaders, and mothers want their voices heard by the Boys Scouts of America and many are calling on the organization to stand by the group’s core values and continue to ban openly gay members.
“Part of our oath is to keep them morally straight. To me, that means, just like we are. Keep it like it has been the past 103 years,” says Scout’s Mountain Lake District Assistant Commissioner Peggy Kilcrease.
"It's not hate. It's not bigotry. It's a choice about how to raise my children in what I perceive to be my Christian values. If yours are different, great, take your values in places where people agree with you," said Boy Scout Troop Leader Chris Kirby.
Others, including openly gay Eagle Scout James Dale, say the policy is wrong.
"I think fair-minded Americans know that discrimination is wrong, and that the Boy Scouts were out of step with America by excluding gay young people and telling non-gay children that discrimination was an American value," said Dale.
After Dale was kicked out of scouting, he took his case to the Supreme Court, but lost after the court upheld the organizations' ban.
Jennifer Tyrrell, a gay mother whose son is a Boy Scout, led a group of petitioners in a press conference in front of the Boy Scouts of America's National Headquarters in Irving Monday.
"Children's psyche are involved here. When you tell a child they're not good enough, when you tell a child their parent's not good enough, it takes a toll on that child. And so, it's not OK anymore," Tyrrell said.
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- Merck Pulls Boy Scouts Funding Over Anti-Gay Policy
- UPS Ends Donations to Boy Scouts
The Associated Press' Nomaan Merchant, NBC 5's Kendra Lyn, and NBC 5's Greg Janda contributed to this report.