The Boy Scouts of America Sequoyah Council, which governs Boy Scout units in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, announced Tuesday its plan to vote against national efforts to allow people who are openly gay to join or be involved in the organization.
The BSA National Council intends to meet in Texas the week of May 20 to let the approximately 1,400 voting members decide the issue.
Sequoyah Council leaders reviewed surveys and comments submitted to them and the majority that responded was in favor to keep the current BSA policy intact, according to a council news release.
“We are continuing to uphold the standards, beliefs and traditions Scouting has held for over 100 years,” Parker Smith, president of the Sequoyah Council Board, said in the release. “As a representative of thousands of youth, adults and alumni in the Sequoyah Council, it is our duty to take their voice to Grapevine, TX on May 23 with a vote to uphold the current membership policy.”
In April, the national BSA leadership proposed a policy that would lift the ban on openly gay youths from joining, but would continue to exclude adult leaders who are gay, the Associated Press reported.
According to the Sequoyah Council press release, the current Boy Scouts of America policy does not ask participants about sexual orientation.
“As the policy currently reads, the Boy Scouts of America does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers or members, but does not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the Boy Scouts of America,” the council said in the release.
Pressure has grown on both sides of the issue with people in some states working to keep the ban and others seeking change, according to AP reports. In Indiana, for example, there’s an ongoing campaign demanding that the United Way withhold funding from the Scouts until the ban is lifted. In California, the state Senate is considering a bill aimed at pressuring the BSA to lift the ban by making the organization ineligible for nonprofit tax breaks.
The AP also reported that BSA leaders in Utah claim a survey shows more than 80 percent of their scout leaders want the ban to remain and the Family Research Council has an online petition in favor of the ban.
This past week, two other Tennessee councils - one in Middle Tennessee the other in West Tennessee - have publicly stated they do not support the proposal. The AP reported that mainly churches and conservative groups want the ban to remain the same, while gay-rights groups are pushing for both bans to be dropped from the overall policy.