The Boy Scouts of America announced yesterday that they have amended their leadership policies and will now allow openly gay adults to serve as leaders and employees in the organization. The move comes after the New York Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau launched an investigation this past April into BSA’s leadership standards to determine if the group illegally discriminates against gays. In 2013, the organization lifted a ban on gay youth, but continued to bar gay adults from involvement in the 105-year-old youth organization. The resolution, which 79 percent of the BSA’s National Executive Board approved, takes effect immediately.
According to a BSA press statement, religious charted organizations may continue to choose leaders based on religious beliefs, including matters of sexuality, but are not prohibited from selecting gay volunteer leaders. This will allow families to select a local unit compatible with their own beliefs for their sons’ participation. In a statement made yesterday, National President Dr. Robert M. Gates noted the issue has divided the organization, distracting it from its mission, and it is time for all Scouts to unite behind the “shared belief in the extraordinary power of scouting to be a force for good.”
“Today’s announcement is a watershed moment for the Boy Scouts of America. The mission of the Boy Scouts is to prepare our nation’s young people to become responsible citizens and leaders, and I can think of no better way of doing that than by enabling young people to learn from a diverse group of role models.” — New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The BSA reached a settlement with the New York Attorney General in which the organization agreed to permanently eliminate the ban on openly gay leaders, develop guidelines for implementing the change and create a training program for managerial staff concerning the new leadership standard. The BSA has also agreed to monitor complaints related to these changes. The organization must also designate an Equal Employment Opportunity Officer.
The Boy Scouts of America posted the announcement on their official Twitter page. Dozens of comments reveal a sharp divide between those in favor of the move, and those opposed. Some hailed the change as “the right thing to do.” Others wrote that, with the new policy, they would not allow their children to participate in Boy Scouts. Several commenters wrote they believed this is the beginning of the end for BSA. Some feared that religious chartered units would be subjected to lawsuits if, based on religious convictions, they refused to allow gay volunteers and employees.