The Boy Scouts of America delayed making a decision on whether to allow gay scouts to participate, disappointing hopes the century-old organization would leave behind a policy that appears increasingly outdated as national attitudes about homosexuality shift toward broader acceptance.
BSA released a statement Wednesday morning, saying the organization needed more time to engage its membership "due to the complexity of the issue," and would wait to take action at the national meeting in May.
The move comes after more than the signatures of 1.4 million people were delivered to Scouting headquarters in Texas Monday, pressing a petition for the organization to drop its resistance to removing the policy.
The organization, whose official stated mission includes a pledge by members to uphold an oath to God, has come under increasing pressure for banning not only gay boys and leaders, but atheists and agnostics as well.
On Monday, President Obama weighed in strongly, answering a simple "yes" when asked if he thought the Scouts' board should overturn the ban during an interview with CBS.
"Gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life," he said.
"The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to, you know, opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives, and I think that nobody should be barred from that."
Others, including Texas governor and Eagle Scout Rick Perry, have joined with some 42 religious groups in calling for the organization to maintain the ban.
"Every American who believes in freedom of thought and religious liberty should be alarmed by the attacks upon the Boy Scouts," an ad published in USA Today by the Family Research Council reads. "To compromise moral principles under political and financial pressure would teach boys cowardice, not courage."
The full statement from Boy Scouts of America:
For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, providing it’s youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. In the past two weeks, Scouting has received an outpouring of feedback from the American public. It reinforces how deeply people care about Scouting and how passionate they are about the organization.
After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy.
To that end, the National Executive Board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards. The approximately 1,400 voting members of the National Council will take action on the resolution at the National Annual Meeting in May 2013.