The Boy Scouts of America’s national council today (May 23) voted to end the organization’s longstanding ban against gay youth.
The resolution, however, does not lift the ban against gay adults who want to volunteer to serve in leadership posts.
The resolution approved on the last day of the council’s three-day meeting with a vote of about 60 percent reads, in part, “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
Rich Ferraro of GLAAD, an organization that has campaigned hard the past year to strike down the ban, said, “Today’s vote is a significant victory for gay youth across the nation and a clear indication that the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adult leaders will also inevitably end. The Boy Scouts of America heard from religious leaders, corporate sponsors and so many Scouting families who want an end to discrimination against gay people, and GLAAD will continue this work with those committed to equality in Scouting until gay parents and adults are able to participate.”
At the Family Equality Council, which represents millions of LGBT families, Steve Majors said, “Every Boy Scout, on their honor, first pledges to do their best. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s not the best the Boy Scouts can do. The Boy Scouts of America have sent a hurtful message to Scouts with LGBT parents that their moms and dads are not welcome as leaders alongside other parents. As a father of two girl scouts and the proud partner of an Eagle Scout, I know that Scouting has a long tradition of being a family activity and the Boy Scouts should be open to all our families.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, responded to the vote saying, “Today is a historic day for Boy Scouts across the country who want to be a part of this great American institution. But the new policy doesn’t go far enough. Parents and adults of good moral character, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to volunteer their time to mentor the next generation of Americans.”
Zach Wahls, the executive director of Scouts for Equality and an Eagle Scout, stated in a news release, “We welcome the news that the ban on gay Scouts is history, but our work isn’t over until we honor the Scout Law by making this American institution open and affirming to all.”
HRC also raised concerns that the new policy, which would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, does not deal with employment discrimination.
The Boy Scouts’ job application explicitly states, “The Boy Scouts of America will not employ atheists, agnostics, known or avowed homosexuals.”
LGBT civil rights supporters, who had urged the Boy Scouts to fully eliminate the gay ban, found support among a number of other civil rights groups, as well as business and political leaders, labor officials and health professionals, educators and parents. The latest poll shows that about 63 percent of Americans support lifting the ban.
But there also has been widespread opposition to a change in policy, especially on the political right and in conservative religious circles.
About 70 percent of local Scouting groups are sponsored or associated with religious organizations or institutions and a number threatened to abandon Scouting if the prohibition against gay adults was lifted.
Some religious groups also have threatened to abandon Scouting over the policy allowing gay youth.
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The Boy Scouts of America’s statement on the policy:
“For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, with a focus on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.
“Based on growing input from within the Scouting family, the BSA leadership chose to conduct an additional review of the organization’s long-standing membership policy and its impact on Scouting’s mission. This review created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change.
“Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting’s history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote.
“This policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units.
“The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.
“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America’s youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.”