By Marice Richter
GRAPEVINE, Texas (Reuters) - The Boy Scouts of America announced it would continue to deny membership to gay scouts and scout leaders on Tuesday, saying the policy would protect the rights of families that prefer to address issues of sexuality in private.
The decision was the result of a two-year evaluation by the organization prompted by repeated rancor over the policy, both for and against, with celebrities, CEOs and Boy Scout activists weighing in.
"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," said Bob Mazzuca, chief scout executive of Boy Scouts of America.
"While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society," he said.
The study, begun in 2010, was conducted by a committee of volunteers and professional leaders that reflected "a diversity of perspectives and opinions," the organization said.
No further action would be taken on the matter, the statement said.
The Boy Scouts of America in 2000 won a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing the organization to ban gays whose conduct, the Boy Scouts argued, violated its values.
A campaign against the ban gathered momentum in the past year and a half, in part because of activism by Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout with two lesbian mothers, and Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian mother from Ohio who was ousted as a Scout den leader and treasurer in April because of the organization's policy.
"We've heard this line before, and I'm sure they'll keep saying this until the day they decide to change the policy. ... We know where this is headed," Wahls said in a statement. "Above all, what is most disappointing about today's announcement is the secretive nature surrounding how this conclusion was reached."
Tyrrell was expected to deliver a petition to Boy Scouts of America's Irving, Texas, headquarters on Wednesday, urging the organization to reinstate her.
"A secret committee of 11 people can't ignore the hundreds of thousands of people around the country -- including thousands of Eagle Scouts, scout families, and former scouts -- that want the ban on gay scouts and scout leaders removed," Tyrrell said in the same statement.
Jim Turley, chairman and chief executive officer of Ernst & Young and a Boy Scouts of America board member, has said the group should stop excluding gay people. Another Boy Scout board member, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, has said he favors diversity and supports change from within.
The Boy Scouts of America claimed more than 1 million adult volunteers at the end of 2011. It was founded in 1910 as part of an international movement established in Britain by General Robert Baden-Powell.
(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan, Daniel Trotta and Cynthia Osterman)