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IRVING, Texas – The Boy Scouts of America's policy excluding gay members and leaders could be up for a vote as soon as Wednesday, when the organization's national executive board meets behind closed doors under intense pressure from several sides.
BSA announced last week it was considering allowing troops to decide whether to allow gay membership. That news has placed a spotlight on executive board meetings that began Monday in Irving, Texas, where scouting headquarters is located.
BSA spokesman Deron Smith said last week that the board could take a vote Wednesday or decide to discuss the policy, but the organization would issue a statement either way. Otherwise, the board has remained silent, with reporters barred from the hotel where its meetings are taking place.
At nearby BSA headquarters, a handful of Scouts and leaders delivered petitions Monday in support of letting gay members join. The conservative group Texas Values, meanwhile, says it has organized a Wednesday morning prayer vigil urging the Scouts to keep their policy the same.
President Barack Obama, an opponent of the policy, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an Eagle Scout who supports it, both have weighed in.
"My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life," said Obama, who as U.S. president is the honorary president of BSA, in a Sunday interview with CBS.
Perry, the author of the book "On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For," said in a speech Saturday that "to have popular culture impact 100 years of their standards is inappropriate."
The board faces several choices, none of which is likely to quell controversy. Standing pat would go against the public wishes of two high-profile board members — Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson — who run companies with nondiscrimination policies and have said they would work from within to change the Scouts' policy.
Conservatives have warned of mass defections if Scouting allows gay membership to be determined by troops. Local and regional leaders, as well as the leadership of churches that sponsor troops, would be forced to consider their own policies. And policy opponents who delivered four boxes of signatures to BSA headquarters Monday said they wouldn't be satisfied by only a partial acceptance of gay scouts and leaders.
"We don't want to see Scouting gerrymandered into blue and red districts," said Brad Hankins, campaign director of Scouts for Equality.