The Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed Tuesday its policy to exclude gays from joining or being leaders, disappointing gay rights groups.
A special committee of Scout executives and adult volunteers formed in 2010 concluded unanimously that the anti-gay policy was the absolute best for the 112-year-old organization, national spokesman Deron Smith told The Associated Press.
Smith said the group represented a diversity of perspectives and opinions, but did not name the members. The Scouts is one of the largest youth organizations in the country with 2.7 million members and more than 1 million adult volunteers.
In June, the Boy Scouts said the organization was considering another resolution proposed at the group's annual meeting that also called for ending the policy. But the decision announced Tuesday means the Scouts’ board will take no further action on that resolution, Smith said.
Resolutions can always be submitted as defined by our bylaws, but the officers of the board have no plans to further review this issue, he said.
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Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and son of two Iowa lesbians who has been outspoken in the issue, slammed the decision by a committee of 11 unelected, unnamed bureaucrats.
Why not put out a call and make it a democratic process? he told ABCNews.com. Why have a secretive committee make the decision?
I believe the vast majority of Scout families do not support their policy on excluding gays, and if that is the case, they picked an awfully interesting way of affirming that in their report, said Wahls.
It's disappointing, he said. The first value of the Scout's law, is a scout is trustworthy and this process does not sound trustworthy. We don't know who the people are -- they are not named and they are not willing to accept responsibility for their actions.
But the Scouts' chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, told the Associated Press that both leaders and Scouts overwhelmingly support the policy.
The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting, Mazzuca said. We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.
Gay rights groups criticized the decision.
“The Boy Scouts of America is one of the last cultural institutions to have discrimination as part of their policy,” said Richard Ferraro, vice president for communications with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, noting that the Girl Scouts, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the 4-H Clubs and now even the military forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation, The New York Times reported.
Prohibiting or ejecting gay children or leaders sends a dangerous message to all children, Ferraro asserted, adding, “It’s policies like this that contribute to bullying in schools.”
Just this week AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, executive board member of the Boy Scouts of America, said he was committed to ending the ban. He takes over as president in 2014, according to Wahls.
An AT&T spokesman reissued a previous statement saying: “We don’t agree with every policy of every organization we support, nor would we expect them to agree with us on everything. Our belief is that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable.”
The exclusion policy was challenged in 2000, but the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the Boy Scouts of America, ruling 5-4 that the organization was exempt from state laws that bar anti-gay discrimination.
The court overturned a ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court to require a troop to readmit a longtime gay scoutmaster who had been dismissed.
The Girl Scouts of America has had a diversity policy and non-discrimination clause since 1980.