NBC News' respected openly gay Justice Correspondent Pete Williams reports that the Boy Scouts may be close to ending their ban on gays joining or serving as scout leaders in their private youth organization. The Boy Scouts of America have long gloated over the 2000 decision by the US Supreme Court holding that the BSA was a private religious organization that had a First Amendment to discriminate under the right of free expression and could impose their belief that homosexuality is inconsistent with the scout's oath to be "morally straight."
The Boy Scouts of America, one of the nation's largest private youth organizations, is actively considering an end to its decades-long policy of banning gay scouts or scout leaders, according to scouting officials and outsiders familiar with internal discussions.
If adopted by the organization's board of directors, it would represent a profound change on an issue that has been highly controversial -- one that even went to the US Supreme Court. The new policy, now under discussion, would eliminate the ban from the national organization's rules, leaving local sponsoring organizations free to decide for themselves whether to admit gay scouts.
"The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization's mission, principles or religious beliefs," according to Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts' national organization.
Individual sponsors and parents "would be able to choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families," Smith said.
The discussion of a potential change in policy is nearing its final stages, according to outside scouting supporters. If approved, the change could be announced as early as next week, after the BSA's national board holds a regularly scheduled meeting.
As Williams points out, the Boy Scouts top leaders re-affirmed their antigay policy only seven months ago. But their grassroots chapters urged reconsideration since local funding groups - such as the United Way - have stopped backing the groups since the ban violates their non-discrimination policy.