The Boy Scouts of America has started its meeting in which members of its national council are to decide whether to change the group's long-standing ban on openly gay boys.
BSA is holding its annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas, near its Irving headquarters. About 1,400 voting members on the council are expected to vote Thursday on a proposed resolution that would allow gay Scouts, while leaving in place a ban on gay leaders.
Discussion of the policy has split conservatives who denounce the proposal and gay-rights supporters who say they welcome the possible change but want the ban on adult leaders to be lifted as well.
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Dave Welch is the director of the Texas Pastor Council. He’s one of about two dozen people standing outside the resort holding signs calling on members to vote "no"
“We believe the Scouts have always stood for something good and pure and our hope is that they will continue to do that. We’re focused on building strong young men and not getting the organization turned into a sexual agenda item for a special interest organization," Welch said. "They want to take an organization that’s had a tradition for a hundred years and change it to adopt a very small number of people who’s values aren’t consistent with the organization. They’re welcome to go start their own. The issue here is, the Scouts have existed for a long time with a code we believe is a good one, and has worked for them."
Directly across the street, members and supporters of the group Scouts for Equality met at the Great Wolf Lodge urging voting delegates to reject what they call a history of discrimination.
Jen Tyrrell is a former den leader, a position she said she was forced to resign because she is gay.
“The Boy Scouts of America are sending that message that gay people are not to be treated equally, that we are not the same, we don’t deserve the same respect and dignity that everyone does and that’s simply not the case. I teach my kids to learn from their mistakes, and it seems as a country we have a hard time with that. It didn’t work when we discriminated against women, black people, it doesn’t work. It’s not OK," Tyrrell said.
In February, Tyrrell delivered to the BSA headquarters a petition with 1.4 million signatures urging the organization to end its policy excluding gay scouts and leaders.
Both sides said they are optimistic about the outcome. The final vote is scheduled for Thursday.
NBC 5's Eric King and the Associated Press contributed to this report.