Boy Scouts' decision on gay members pushed to May
One of the Boy Scouts of America's largest groups, the Great Salt Lake Council, wanted to delay the vote on allowing gay members and that's what it got Wednesday.
The national organization announced last week that it was considering removing the ban against gay members, prompting officials nationwide to weigh in on the issue, including President Barack Obama, who supports lifting the ban.
The Boy Scouts national board has gathered at its headquarters in Irving, Texas, where, in a surprise announcement, it said it would delay a vote on its current ban of gay youth and adults until its next meeting in May.
The LDS Church sponsors 99 percent of the 5,000 Scout troops in the Salt Lake City area, according to local officials.
Kay Godfrey, spokesman for the Great Salt Lake Council, did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday and through a secretary referred the media to the national Boy Scouts. Still, Godfrey did speak on a morning radio show, RadioWest on KUER 90.1 with host Doug Fabrizio.
"We're encouraged by the decision of the national executive board to delay this vote," Godfrey said on the show. "We want to be engaged in this conversation and be a part of the decision-making process. ...We were caught totally off guard with regards to this issue."
However, Godfrey said the LDS Church was "consulted, prior to this group assembling to deal with this resolution. I don't know the nature of the conversation, I was not privy to that."
Radio host Fabrizio asked Godfrey why the Boy Scouts excludes gay people.
"I'm not in a position to discuss that particular topic," Godfrey said. "My concern is the institutions who serve us. Some of those institutions feel very strongly about the membership standards of scouting. My concern is if you start to chip away at the foundation of scouting ... then some of these faith-based sponsors are going to say, 'this is not what we have in mind' ... and then they could drop scouting."
The top three Boy Scouts sponsors are the LDS Church, United Methodist Church and the Catholic Church.
The national Boy Scouts office sent out a written statement.
"After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy," it said in the statement.
LDS Church officials agreed with the delay Wednesday but cautioned they were not taking sides.
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is carefully assessing the consequences of this policy change on the Church's program to build and strengthen young men, but it has not commented on it and a decision will not be made until we have assessed all of the implications," it said in a statement. "We caution others not to speculate about our position or to assume that individual Latter-day Saints inside or outside the scouting movement speak for the Church. Neither has the Church launched any campaign either to effect or prevent a policy change."
Even if the national Boy Scouts reversed its current ban, and then allowed gay members, local religious and civic groups could still decide for themselves whether to continue excluding gay people.
Kendall Wilcox of Salt Lake City is an openly gay member of the LDS Church who became an Eagle Scout as a teen.
Wilcox said it's ironic the LDS Church is more progressive on this issue than the Boy Scouts: "Kids should be able to come out to their bishops and encouraged to go into Scouts."
Mitch Mayne, of San Francisco, is an openly gay priesthood leader who serves in the Bay Ward, and was also a scout as a youth.
"Ever since Mormonsandgays.org, I think the [LDS Church's] message is be more loving, be more inclusive and be more kind," said Mayne, who grew up in Idaho. "I was more bullied in Scouting than in school. And the [Boy Scout] leaders were complicit, or actually participated, in that bullying."
Mayne said the Boy Scouts excluding gay people is counter to their ideals: "In Scouts, we're supposed to learn how to be better people and what I learned was how to lie and be dishonest."
Boy Scouts' top sponsors
1. LDS Church, 420,977 youths in 37,882 units.
2. United Methodist Church, 371,491 youths in 11,078 units.
3. Catholic Church, 283,642 youths in 8,570 units.
4. Parent-teacher groups, other than PTAs, 153,214 youths in 3,712 units.
5. Presbyterian Church, 127,931 youths in 3,663 units.
Source: 2011 Boy Scouts of America Local Council Index .