Metro Weekly

Boy Scouts of America lifts ban on gay adult leaders

Ban lifts immediately for many troops, but religiously-chartered organizations will still be able to discriminate

Boy Scouts of America volunteers at the 2013 National Jamboree in Mt. Hope, W.V. (Credit: U.S. Army Sgt. William White, via Wikimedia Commons.)
Boy Scouts of America volunteers at the 2013 National Jamboree in Mt. Hope, W.V. (Credit: U.S. Army Sgt. William White, via Wikimedia Commons.)

The National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voted on Monday evening to ratify a resolution that lifts the organization’s ban on openly gay adult leaders.

According to a statement from BSA, 79 percent of the board voted in favor of the resolution, which was approved unanimously by the Executive Committee on July 10. The now-ratified resolution goes into effect immediately, allowing openly gay Scoutmasters, adult leaders and parent volunteers who were previously excluded from participating to become involved with their local BSA troop, provided that it is not chartered by a religiously-affiliated organization.

The compromise that was inherent in the resolution, as approved by the Executive Committee, was to continue to allow troops that are chartered by religious or religiously-affiliated organizations, such as a church or a Knights of Columbus hall, to continue to select adult leaders according to their own criteria, including their religious beliefs or moral values as protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

“Chartered organizations will continue to select their adult leaders and religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality,” the BSA statement announcing the approval of the resolution reads. “This change allows Scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families. This change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”

Openly gay Scouts are still allowed to join and participate in BSA troops following the lifting of a similar ban in 2013. That policy would have remained unchanged even if Monday’s resolution had failed.

“For far too long this issue has divided and distracted us,” said Robert Gates, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense and the president of BSA. “Now it’s time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of Scouting to be a force for good in a community and in the lives of its youth members. We deliver fun, character-building, leadership-developing experiences and adventures that young people and their parents love. We’ve been doing this for 105 years. I am confident we wil continue to do so for another century.”

The pro-LGBT Scouting organization Scouts for Equality issued their own statement celebrating the National Executive Board’s vote. 

“This vote marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Boy Scouts of America,” said Zach Wahls, the executive director of Scouts for Equality. “Tens of thousands of people came together because they wanted to build a better future for the Boy Scouts of America, and that future starts now. … As of this vote, the Boy Scouts of America is an organization looking forward, not back.

“While we still have some reservations about individual units discriminating against gay adults, we couldn’t be more excited about the future of Scouting,” Wahls continued. “We look forward to collaborating with our supporters, progressive faith partners, allied nonprofit organizations, and the Boy Scouts of America to ensure a fully inclusive Scouting movement. … We’re calling on gay Eagle Scouts, parents who are straight allies, nonprofit organizations who support LGBT equality and anyone else who has walked away from the Boy Scouts to rejoin the fold. Together, we can build a stronger, more inclusive Scouting movement.”

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