Boy Scouts are today voting to determine whether openly gay members can participate in the organisation, as part of a landmark debate that could change the face of Scouting across America.
1,400 members of the Boy Scouts of America will cast ballots to determine whether openly gay members should not be excluded from participating in Scouts during voting at a resort in Grapevine, Texas.
The ban on gay adult members however would still remain in place.
Homosexual members were officially excluded in 1978, a decision long disputed by gay rights groups. This dispute was even taken to the Supreme Court 13 years ago, where it was ruled that as a private members organisation, Scouts have the right to decide who enters their group and could therefore exclude openly gay boys.
Both opponents and supporters met on Wednesday in a final effort to explain their positions on the issue. Gay-rights supporters and other groups who want the policy changed held a summit at a nearby resort, while opponents held signs on the street next to the entrance and a rally nearby.
Scouting was established in 1910 and claims 2.6 million youth members in the US, in addition to thousands of leaders and volunteers. Its board of directors includes executives and community leaders, and President Barack Obama is its honorary president.
The BSA has faced mounting pressure over its exclusion policy as public opinion toward gays and gay marriage continues to evolve. Obama called on the Scouts to reverse the ban before a national executive board meeting in February, and two high-profile board members — the CEOs of AT&T and Ernst & Young — said they would work from within to change the policy.
Writing for USA Today, BSA president Wayne Perry spoke out to advocate that gay youth membership should be allowed, saying that ending restrictions on gay members would be “the right decision for Boy Scouts”.
“Today's proposed resolution reaffirms our core belief in doing one's ‘duty to God.’ It would remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone and would maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders.
“The resolution is not about adults; it is about what is best for young people.”
The result is expected to be announced at 6pm GMT.