It promises to be a campaign as passionate and dramatic as any big election. For the next 14 weeks, the Boy Scouts of America will be the focus of prayers, petitions and pressure tactics aimed at swaying a vote on whether to ease its ban on gays as Scouts or adult leaders.
The decision will be made the week of May 20 by the roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA's National Council. The policy was supposed to be settled Wednesday by the Scouts' 70-member national executive board, but the board concluded the issue was so complex that the organization needed more time to study it.
At stake is a proposal to ease the ban by allowing sponsors of local Scout units to decide for themselves whether to admit gays. Gay-rights groups say the plan is inadequate, and that no units should be allowed to discriminate. Some conservative religious leaders and advocacy groups want the ban to stay in place nationwide.
Both sides are girding for intensive lobbying between now and late May, hoping to influence the outcome.