The shift, if approved at a national board meeting next week, would be another step in the nation's growing acceptance of gay men and lesbians. It would follow an end to the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and approval of gay marriage in nine states and the District of Columbia.
Seven months ago, the Boy Scouts affirmed the ban on gays after a nearly two-year study. Some local chapters, gay advocacy groups and some members of the national board -- corporate CEO Randall Stephenson of AT&T and James Turley of Ernst & Young -- called for a reconsideration, as did businesses that support Scouting and also have policies against discrimination.
The proposed new policy would leave decisions on membership and leadership up to the 290 local governing councils and 116,000 sponsoring religious and civic groups.
"Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve," Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said in confirming the reconsideration.
The announcement comes after a campaign that lasted more than a year and collected over 1.2 million online signatures at Change.org, according to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro said this is an important "first step" for the Boy Scouts that he hopes will lead to allowing gays to participate in an important cultural institution.
"The Girl Scouts, 4-H clubs and the U.S. military are fully inclusive, and that's what we need from the Boy Scouts of America," he said. "Until then, there will be young people out there who are harmed by this."
"This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction," said Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout who founded Scouts for Equality.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, said a policy change would be "nothing less than disastrous for the Boy Scouts of America."
The Southern Baptist Convention views homosexuality as sinful and not acceptable as normal behavior, Mohler said. Ending the national ban would require parents to research the policy of each troop and sponsoring organization before joining, he said, and it would cause his denomination to reconsider its relationship with the Boy Scouts.
The potential policy shift raises a question about another group shut out of Scouting: atheists, who decline to say the Boy Scout Oath "to do my duty to God and my country."
David Silverman, president of American Atheists, said, "If they are considering lifting the ban on gays, that's a good thing. That's progress. If they lift that bigotry from their requirements, I would hope they remove the rest of the bigotry and admit atheists as well."
Contributing: William M. Welch
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