Boy Scouts of America delay vote on ending gay ban
The national board of the Boy Scouts of America has postponed a vote to end a ban on gay scouts and leaders, the youth group has said.
The BSA added it would take action after a national meeting in May.
Last week it said the board would consider letting local branches choose their own policy on gay membership.
An opinion poll released on Wednesday showed that most Americans believed, by a margin of 55% to 33%, that the BSA should end its gay ban.
Only last year the organisation reaffirmed its policy against gay members, following a two-year review. But it has come under pressure to reconsider that decision.
The BSA national board said on Wednesday it needed to deliberate further on the issue of gay members before it could make a decision.
"Due to the complexity of this issue, the organisation needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy," it said in a statement.
Deron Smith, the BSA's director of public relations, said the organisation would prepare a resolution for 1,400 voting members of its national council to consider at a meeting this May in Grapevine, Texas.
Opinion is sharply divided on the subject, with President Barack Obama, the organisation's honorary president, in favour of lifting the ban.
"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," Mr Obama said in an interview with CBS on Sunday.
But others, such as Texas Governor Rick Perry, himself an Eagle Scout, oppose such a move.
On Saturday, Gov Perry said in a speech that "to have popular culture impact 100 years of their standards is inappropriate".
In July, the Boy Scouts concluded that maintaining its long-standing policy against allowing gay members was "the best policy for the organisation".
In 2000, the organisation went to the US Supreme Court, saying its policy of "morally straight" conduct fell within its right to freedom of expression.
Some conservative groups have warned people might leave the BSA if it changes its policy on gay members, since it would prompt local units and churches that sponsor the scouts to reconsider their own policies.
But BSA officials said earlier that other local chapters were urging the Boy Scouts to reconsider their decision.
At least two members of the organisation's national board, Jim Turley, chairman and chief executive of consulting firm Ernst and Young, and Randall Stephenson, head of the US telecoms company AT&T, have said they would support a change in policy.
Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910, said that at the end of 2011 it had more than one million adult members.