Boy Scouts Lift Ban on Openly Gay Youths

The Boy Scouts of America’s volunteer leaders voted to end a longstanding policy forbidding openly gay youths from participating in its activities—a decision that’s seen as a milestone for the organization, but one that is not without controversy.

At their annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas, on Thursday, more than 1,400 Boy Scouts of America volunteer leaders voted on a measure to remove the ban on openly gay youth members. More than 60 percent voted in favor of lifting the ban.

This resolution today dealt with youth. We have not changed our adult membership standards. They have served us well for the last 100 years. Those were not on the table.

“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,” the group said in a statement on its website announcing the decision. “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.”

The policy change will go into effect on January 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 statement said.

BSA has been stuck in the middle of a passionate debate since they announced its intentions to explore the possibility of lifting the ban. And even with Thursday’s vote, the debate is likely to continue.

Many LGBT groups have said that while the decision to lift the ban on gay youths is a step in the right direction, they will continue their work until all openly gay individuals, including adults and leaders, are allowed to participate.

In their statement, BSA said that there are no plans to change the current membership policy for adults.

“This resolution today dealt with youth,” Tico Perez, national commissioner for BSA, said according to NBC News. “We have not changed our adult membership standards. They have served us well for the last 100 years. Those were not on the table.”

Robert Schwarzwalder, senior vice president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group, told The New York Times that he believed there would be “tremendous fallout” from the BSA’s decision to lift the ban.

“I think there will be a loss of hundreds of thousands of boys and parents,” he said. “This great institution is going to be vitiated by the intrusion of a political agenda.”

BSA addressed both views head-on in its statement.

“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting,” the group said. “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.”

(Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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