The Boy Scouts of America is considering an end to its longstanding policy of banning gay Scouts and Scout leaders, the organization said on Monday.
The new policy would eliminate the ban on gays from the organization's national rules, allowing local chapters to decide for themselves.
“The BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation," Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, wrote in an email to Yahoo News. "This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, but that the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs."
The 102-year-old Dallas-based organization represents 290 local councils, more than 116,000 local organizations and 2.6 million youth members.
The move would allow parents to then "choose a local unit which best meets the needs of their families,” Smith added. “The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents."
It would also be a public reversal of policy for an organization that recently rejected calls for change. In July 2012, following an internal study on the issue, the Boy Scouts of America's executive board issued a statement affirming the ban, saying it was “the best policy for the organization.”
That decision followed the forced resignations of gay Scout leaders and the denial of an Eagle Award to Ryan Andresen, a California high-school senior who had recently come out to his friends and family.
The ban prompted a response from the White House, which said President Barack Obama sharply opposed it. “He also opposes discrimination in all forms,” the White House said in a statement, "and as such opposes this policy that discriminates on basis of sexual orientation."
According to NBC, some board members urged the youth organization to reconsider its policy as some sponsoring organizations responded by withdrawing their financial support of the group.
Change.org petitions opposing the ban have collected more than 1.2 million signatures. And according to Scouts for Equality, at least 350 Eagle Scouts returned their pins in protest.