Boy Scouts Let Go of Controversial LGBT Policy

On Monday, the Boy Scouts of America announced it would remove the national restriction on openly gay adult leaders. The move comes roughly two years after the organization voted to end a similar ban for openly gay youths—some of whom, after graduating from high school, kept the pressure on BSA.

The pressure was on for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to do something, and ultimately, the organization chose to shift with the cultural tides.

On Monday, BSA’s National Executive Board voted to end its restriction on openly gay scout leaders, helping to end a lengthy debate on the issue within the organization—as criticism of the stance came from the outside world. Approximately 79 percent of the board members present for the vote favored the resolution.

The move allows local chapters backed by churches to rely on religious beliefs in their own hiring decisions, leaving BSA out of a wedge issue. Secular chapters will not be allowed to discriminate.

“By focusing on the goals that unite us, we are able to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve,” the organization said in a news release.

Moving Forward

The move comes approximately two months after BSA President Robert Gates—who notably led the Department of Defense during a similar transition to allowing gays to serve in the military—called on the organization to end the ban on gay adult leaders, saying it was unsustainable. In a statement on the matter released Monday, Gates reiterated that the change was for the good of the organization.

“For far too long this issue has divided and distracted us,” Gates said [PDF]. “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.”

Pressure to Change

The group was facing pressure to extend its standards for LGBT youths, updated in 2013 and implemented at the beginning of 2014, to its adult volunteers.

In particular, a New York City-area BSA chapter openly defied the national ban earlier this year by hiring Pascal Tessier, one of the first openly gay Eagle Scouts, as a camp counselor. Tessier had support from prominent lawyer David Boies.

BSA’s latest move was praised by Scouts for Equality, an advocacy group that had organized around the issue.

“While we still have some reservations about individual units discriminating against gay adults, we couldn’t be more excited about the future of Scouting,” Zach Wahls, the group’s executive director, said in a news release. “We look forward to collaborating with our supporters, progressive faith partners, allied non-profit organizations, and the Boy Scouts of America to ensure a fully inclusive Scouting movement.”

(Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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