After a confidential two-year review, the Boy Scouts of America emphatically reaffirmed Tuesday its policy of excluding gays, angering critics who had hoped that relentless protest campaigns might lead to change.
The Scouts cited support from parents as a key reason for keeping the policy and expressed hope that the prolonged debate over it might now subside. Bitter reactions from gay-rights activists suggested that was unlikely.
National spokesman, Deron Smith told The Associated Press that an 11-member special committee, formed discreetly by top Scout leaders in 2010, came to the conclusion that the exclusion policy "is absolutely the best policy" for the 112-year-old organization.
Smith said the committee, comprising professional Scout executives and adult volunteers, was unanimous in its conclusion, preserving a long-standing policy that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.
The Scouts' chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, contended that most Scout families support the policy, which applies to both adult leaders and Scouts.
"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," Mazzuca said. "We fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society."
"With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued," he said. "They've chosen to teach division and intolerance."
Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said the Scouts "have turned their backs on a chance to demonstrate fairness, exercise sound judgment."
One protest campaign involves Jennifer Tyrrell, the Ohio mother of a 7-year-old Cub Scout who was ousted as a den mother because she is lesbian. Change.org, an online forum, says more than 300,000 people have signed its petition urging the Scouts to reinstate Tyrrell.