Two years after launching a confidential review of the policy, the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed their ban on out gay members and leaders in a unanimous decision on Tuesday.
Deron Smith, a spokesman for the 102-year-old organization, told the Associated Press that their decision to uphold the ban was based largely on support from parents and is "absolutely the best policy for the organization."
For LGBT activists who have been fighting the organization's ban for more than a decade after the Supreme Court upheld the policy in 2000, the July 17 announcement was a major disappointment.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said the Boy Scouts' decision was a "missed opportunity of colossal proportions."
"With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued," Griffin said in a statement. "These adults could have taught the next generation of leaders the value of respect, yet they've chosen to teach division and intolerance."
That sentiment was echoed by R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, who described the ban as "absolutely the wrong policy for the Boy Scouts."
"The Boy Scouts of America decision to continue to exclude gays from membership is extremely disappointing and sends the message that gay youth are not fit to serve God and country," Cooper said in a statement. Cooper served as an Eagle Scout in Florida during his youth.
The decision by the Boy Scouts appears to have been an attempt to silence critics who have been pushing for years for the organization to embrace gay members, much as the Girl Scouts of America organization has.
Protests against the ban will likely persist, but it remains to be seen when the Boy Scouts will reconsider the policy again. Although a resolution to allow gay leaders on the local level was submitted in May to the group's leadership for consideration later this year, the ban's reaffirmation killed the resolution, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Questions still surround the secret board that issued the decision and whether members were influenced by outside religious groups. Boy Scout troops are sponsored by outside groups, including the Catholic and Mormon churches. Mormons, in particular, which make up about 400,000 of the Boy Scouts' 2.7 million members, encourages church members to become involved in the organization.
Although the committee's decision was described as unanimous and a proper gauge of parents' sentiments, there remains some hope for advocates. AT&T Chief Executive Officer and President Randall Stephenson, who is poised to become president of the board for the Boy Scouts in two years, has expressed his commitment to diversity and disagreement to the Boy Scouts' policy in the past, according to Dallas Voice.
Although Stephenson did not comment on Tuesday's decision, AT&T did issue a statement declaring their support for diversity and inclusion, adding, "change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable."
UPDATE at 3:40P WEDNESDAY: The Boy Scouts of America stood by their ban on out gay members and leaders this morning after a lesbian mother of four who was ousted as den leader of her sons' Cub Scout troop three months ago delivered a petition to the organization's headquarters.
Jennifer Tyrrell, who is 32-years-old and lives in Ohio, brought three boxes filled with more than 300,000 signatures urging the organization to end their ban on gay Scouts to the Boy Scouts' headquarters in Dallas. Tyrrell showed up in her den mother's uniform and was accompanied by her partner and two sons.
Dallas Voice reports that a Boy Scouts' representative met with Tyrrell and her family for about 10 minutes, but stood by the policy reaffirmed by the organization the day before.
In an email to NBC News, Boy Scout spokesman Deron Smith said the purpose of the meeting was not to discuss changing any policy but to listen.
"The Boy Scouts of America works to treat everyone with courtesy and respect," Smith wrote, adding that to disagree "does not mean to disrespect."
Tyrrell also described the meeting as respectful, but said her fight would continue. Her petition remains open on Change.org.