Just seven months after the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its decades-old ban on admitting gay members and leaders, the organization said it could reverse that policy as early as next week.
Scout officials announced on Monday that the organization is considering amending its policy against homosexual participation in favor of allowing local troops to decide on their own, NBC News reports.
If the policy change is approved at next week's national executive board meeting the ban would be eliminated from the scout's rules.
"The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs,” Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts’ national organization told NBC News on Monday.
Tiverton scout leader and Town Councilor William P. Gerlach said the news was positive, but was discouraged that the Boy Scouts chose to sidestep such a divisive and important social issue.
"I think this is a step in the right direction and it's a positive development, but I think the national organization can do more," said Gerlach. "They have basically absolved themselves of the responsibility and pushed the decision on whether or not to admit gay and lesbian scouts and leaders onto the local organizations that sponsor the local units."
As far as Tiverton's scout organizations go, homosexuality is - and has been - a non-issue. Gerlach said his cub scouts troop has never had an issue with homosexuality, but added that he discussed the national Boy Scouts' organization ban with other local scout leaders and all agreed that sexuality was irrelevant to participation.
"Our local unit remains committed to an inclusive program on all levels," said Gerlach.
While the New York times reported that scout officials offered no timeline on making the formal decision, most other media outlets are anticipating a decision after discussion on the issue at next week's national executive board meeting.
Tiverton-Little Compton Patch readers weighed in on Facebook after the Boy Scouts' announcement on Monday.
Christine Cutillo Mello: I think it would be in their best interest if they want to avoid discrimination lawsuits. They've already destroyed their good name, perhaps they can win back some brownie points by changing this ridiculous policy.
Charlotte McCarthy: I guess my feeling is that sexuality does not need to be part of everything we do. Let these kids be... KIDS, let them worry about knot tying and fort building, worry about liking boys or girls some other time, like college.
Stop pressuring kids to fit themselves into some straight/gay box when it's just not necessary, or appropriate.
Instead of the boy scouts worrying about who is gay or straight, just let them focus on wood crafts and hiking for a while...
Activists on both sides of the issue spoke out on Monday on the unintended consequences of leaving the decision on whether or not to allow gays up to individual scouting troops. The New York Times reported that supporters of the ban feared the Boy Scouts' softened approach could undermine the organization's legacy of producing great, moral leaders. Equality activists worried the piecemeal approach would encourage discrimination in some troops.
The battle to end the ban on gay members and leaders in the Boy Scouts began decades ago, but recently regained momentum as a result of public and private backlash when the scouts reaffirmed their policy position in 2012. That same policy endured a Supreme Court trial in 2000.
What's your opinion on allowing gay members and leaders in the Boy Scouts? Do you think Boy Scouts' headquarters should issue a more definitive policy change allowing homosexuals? What will be the repercussions of allowing individual units to ban or allow gays? Tell us in the comments below.