Why Did the Boy Scouts Postpone Gay-Ban Repeal?

Another delay on inclusion turns eyes toward the BSA's 116,000 sponsors—and the funding fears slowing progress.

Boy Scouts of America is in no rush to lift its existing gay ban. Despite a recent announcement that BSA leaders this week would revisit whether to allow gay scouts and gay and lesbian troop leaders, news came yesterday that a decision would again be delayed.


"Due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review," Boy Scouts of America said in a statement. The issue will now be revisited in May.

Corporate pressure from companies and their CEOs—in particular, Ernst & Young Chairman and CEO Jim Turley and AT&T Chairman, CEO and President Randall Stephenson, who are both BSA board members—certainly contributed to the Boy Scouts' initial decision to revisit the ban. The proposed policy would have left membership decisions or exclusions based on sexual orientation up to the Boy Scouts' 290 local councils and 116,000 sponsors, which are comprised of religious and civic groups.

While the plan to give local units more authority was heralded by LGBT advocates, it also received a lot of pushback from local sponsors: About 70 percent of troops currently are backed by religious groups with more conservative beliefs, meaning about 105,000 of the approximate 150,000 national Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs could lose that funding.

"The Boy Scouts of America has heard from scouts, corporations and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong," said Herndon Graddick, President of GLAAD, an advocacy group for LGBTs. "Scouting is a valuable institution, and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect."

Many news outlets doubt the probability that the Boy Scouts could have a sudden reversal, as this wavering stance indicates its positioning is less about a desire to keep up with the times—after all, the organization's ban has been in place for more than a decade—and more about juggling societal pressures. Similar organizations, including the Girl Scouts, 4-H clubs and the U.S. military, all promote policies of inclusion.

A national poll by Quinnipiac University shows that 55 percent of people support lifting the Boy Scouts ban against gays and lesbians; only 33 percent are opposed. If BSA is looking for a win-win situation, outlets suggest the current inaction will leave the organization with the short end of the stick—and stuck with the bad reputation of being wishy-washy.

Will Progress Ever Come to Boy Scouts?

How will corporations, especially those who embody a culture of diversity and inclusion, react to the postponement? Will they pull funding? For example, Merck & Co. recently announced it would cease its annual $30,000 contributions to the Boy Scouts of America and $10,000 to the Cradle of Liberty Council, which governs troops in the Philadelphia area, where Merck Chairman, President and CEO Kenneth Frazier grew up.

Ernst & Young is No. 6 in the DiversityInc Top 50 and No. 4 in The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for LGBT EmployeesAT&T is No. 4 in the DiversityInc Top 50 and No. 8 in The DiversityInc Top 10 Companies for LGBT Employees. Merck & Co. is No. 16 in the DiversityInc Top 50. All three companies have a 100 percent rating on the Corporate Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign, which designates those organizations demonstrating workplace equality for LGBT employees.

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