America's boy scout organisation has delayed a decision on whether to lift its long-standing ban on gay scouts and leaders.
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) said it will take a final decision at its national meeting in May.
It said last week it was considering a shift of its policy, which has led officials to remove gay leaders and scouts. That announcement pushed years of debate over the policy to an even higher level.
President Barack Obama - Scouting's honorary president - spoke in favour of letting gay scouts in. Others opposed a shift. Protesters on both sides rallied at BSA headquarters in Irving, outside Dallas.
Scout leaders across the country will now have to decide how to handle a very delicate issue.
The board faces several choices, none of which is likely to quell controversy. No change would go against the public wishes of two high-profile board members - Ernst & Young chief executive James Turley and AT&T's head Randall Stephenson - who run companies with non-discrimination policies and have said they would work from within to change the scouts' policy.
Conservatives have warned of mass defections if scouting allows gay membership to be determined by troops. Local and regional leaders, as well as the leadership of churches that sponsor troops, would be forced to consider their own policies. And policy opponents who delivered four boxes of signatures to BSA headquarters said they would not be satisfied by only a partial acceptance of gay scouts and leaders.
"We don't want to see scouting gerrymandered into blue and red districts," said Brad Hankins, campaign director of Scouts for Equality.