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. It would be the latest step in the national debate over gay rights in the U.S., where some states allow gay marriage and the Supreme Court in March will consider questions over married gay couples' equal rights to federal benefits.
President Barack Obama, an opponent of the Boy Scout ban on gay members, 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 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."
BSA spokesman Deron Smith said last week that the board could take a vote Wednesday or decide to discuss the policy. The board has remained silent, with reporters barred from the hotel where its meetings are taking place.
Two high-profile board members — Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson —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.
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.
The conservative group Texas Values, meanwhile, said it has organized a Wednesday morning prayer vigil urging the Scouts to keep their policy the same.