Presented with a 275,000 strong petition, the Boy Scouts of America will review a motion to allow individual units to lift the ban on gay leaders if they choose, but a spokesman has said there is no plan to amend the policy.
Zach Wahls, whose speech to the Iowa legislature on marriage equality and his two gay mothers went viral last year, and who is himself an Eagle Scout, delivered the signatures to the National Annual Meeting of the Boy Scouts of America.
He said: “Last Wednesday I delivered 275,000 petition signatures — including the signatures of thousands of scouts and scout leaders — to the Boy Scouts of America because I love the organization and I refuse to stand by idly as it forfeits its cultural relevancy at the very moment this country needs it most.”
A spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America told AP a motion to lift the ban would be put to a subcommittee which would make a recommendation to the national executive board, probably by May 2013. But, he said, there were no current plans to change the policy.
Mr Wahls said: “In proposing to allow local charter organizations to decide whether or not they’ll include gay youth and leaders within their ranks, the Boy Scouts of America has taken an historic step forward, and I applaud their bravery in doing so.”
As a private organisation, the Boy Scouts of America has adopted positions since 1991 which state that homosexuality is “inconsistent with the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed”.
Its Scout Promise states: “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”
The Scout Law states: “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”
In 2008, the US Supreme Court ruled that the organisation could legally bar gay leaders, saying it could not force the organisation “to accept members where such acceptance would derogate from the organization’s expressive message.”
The Change.org petition now has over 290,000 signatories.