Among the biggest backers are the Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to BSA. In 2011, Mormon-backed Cub Scout and Boy Scout units accounted for more than 420,000 of all Scouts nationwide, while more than 200,000 other scouts were members of units affiliated with the Catholic Church.
Links with religious groups are "definitely part of our longstanding tradition," says Smith. "Our policies and procedures and everything that we are is definitely reflected by our membership and our charter organization partners."
Those affiliations over the years have resulted in a complicated political maze that's difficult to navigate when it comes to change, Stansbury suggests. "Oh yeah -- the Catholic and Mormon churches have a lot of influence on the Boy Scouts, especially the leadership of the Boy Scouts," he says. "I certainly believe that's a big part of why the Boy Scouts have stubbornly held onto this policy.
"It would be a much better organization, not having those people involved. But it's not going to go away immediately."
There's also dissent among leaders inside Scouting -- although many keep a low profile. One Scout leader, who asked to remain anonymous because he fears losing his position, posted comments on a private online message board for Eagle alums.
If the U.S. military can accept openly gay and lesbian troops, he asked, why can't the Boy Scouts of America? "Every day I question my personal integrity for choosing to stay involved with a discriminatory organization."