By Casey Wian
(WJLA/CNN) - The Boy Scouts of America today began talks that could lead to a landmark change in the organization's long-standing ban on gays.
Leaders of religious organizations that sponsor about a million boy scouts and activists pressuring the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on openly gay scouts and scoutmasters can agree on one thing. They're not satisfied with the boy scouts' proposal to leave the issue up to local troops.
"We believe that if they make this decision it's gonna be a catastrophe for the boy scouts," said Richard Land, Southern Baptist Convention.
"We don't want to see scouting gerrymandered into blue and red districts, so the best solution would be to end discrimination outright," said Brad Hankins, Scouts for Equality.
The boy scouts won't discuss their policy proposal, but the organization has told leaders of religious groups that the change is motivated by pressure from corporate donors. More than a dozen including IBM,Merck, and American Airlines have pulled funding from the boy scouts, according to "Scouting for All," a group pushing for an end to the scout's gay ban.
"What they've said to us and to other religious leaders is that we're doing this under pressure and we're going to give people what basically amounts to a local option. You can't have a local option of a core conviction," said Land. "In 2000 the supreme court said that the boy scouts did not have to have homosexual scoutmasters because their belief about sexual morality was a core value. If you make it a local option, it's no longer a core value and the courts will revisit this."
Jennifer Tyrell was a scout den mother who was ousted for being gay.
"If the policy passes and individual troops and councils can decide it's of course a great first step and we would be appreciative of that step and that acknowledgment. However it will mean that there is more work to be done."
Even before the controversy over admitting gays, the Boys Scouts were seeing a decline in membership, which has dropped by about a third since 1999.