The Boy Scouts of America is expected to end its ban on openly gay leaders in a limited manner Monday, a historic decision for one of the nation’s largest youth organizations, whose decades-long struggle over whether to include gays in its ranks has both mirrored and fueled the broader national debate over LGBT rights.
The action expected Monday is the official ratification of a resolution to amend the Scouts’ leadership policy that the group’s Executive Committee unanimously voted to adopt July 10.
The Scouts’ current adult leadership standards policy prohibits membership to “individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals.”
The new resolution reads, in part:
The Boy Scouts of America affirms the right of each chartering organization to reach its own religious and moral conclusions about the specific meaning and application of these values. The Boy Scouts of America further affirms the right of each chartering organization to select adult leaders who support those conclusions in word and deed and who will best inculcate the organization’s values through the Scouting program.
The resolution will also wholly prevent people who apply to be Boy Scout employees and certain types of volunteers from being rejected based on sexual orientation.
Boy Scout units that are chartered to religious entities — which comprise the majority of units — are explicitly allowed the option of maintaining it under the new resolution, and pledges indemnity from lawsuits that may spring from their decisions to do so.
Of the roughly 100,000 scouting units, nearly 72 percent are owned and operated by faith-based organizations.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United Methodist Church and the Roman Catholic Church have the the largest youth membership of the faith-based organizations involved with the Boy Scouts.
Over the past two decades, the organization has been increasingly embroiled by battles over whether to continue excluding gays, a stance that has threatened the Scouts with the specter of costly litigation and caused some corporate sponsors, including Merck, UPS, United Way and Intel to withdraw support.
In 2013, the Scouts decided to allow gay youths to participate in scouting, a policy that took effect the following year.
The latest change is the culmination of advocacy by Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates.
Gates, who oversaw the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy during his tenure as U.S. Secretary of Defense, used a speech at the Boy Scouts’ annual national meeting this year to call on the organization to repeal the ban on openly gay adults.
In his speech, Gates said that a number of factors, including potential discrimination lawsuits, internal disputes over the policy and the impending Supreme Court gay marriage decision had convinced him that the rule was untenable.