The Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday to allow openly gay members, but openly gay leaders and atheists will continue to be prohibited.
More than 60 percent of the 1,400 delegates of the Boy Scouts’ National Council voted to repeal the long-standing prohibition on openly gay members. LGBT advocates praised the vote as a positive first step. However, the council did not vote on the issue of leaders and therefore the current policy will remain in place.
“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 organization said in a statement. “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,” the organization added. “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.”
The Boy Scouts of America considered lifting the ban on gay members three months ago, but delayed a vote on repealing the ban until today. The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the group was allowed to prohibit gay members under the First Amendment, which guarantees the freedom of association.
“Today is a historic day for Boy Scouts across the country who want to be a part of this great American institution,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “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.”
“The Boy Scouts of America can do better,” Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and Executive Director of Scouts for Equality, added. “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.”
Atheist groups also condemned the Boy Scouts for ignoring the issue of leaders.
“The Boy Scouts of America still supports an untenable, unreasonable and unnecessary discriminatory policy by excluding gay leaders and staff members,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “In addition to ending all anti-gay policies, the Boy Scouts should also open their doors to those without a religious affiliation. Their national policy of discrimination against humanists and atheists, like the anti-gay policy, needlessly shuts out millions of Americans.”
[Group of Boy Scouts via Shutterstock]