The National Council of the Boy Scouts of America passed a resolution permitting openly gay members to fully participate in scouting activities on Thursday afternoon at a meeting in Grapevine, Texas. 61 percent of the 1,400-person council voted in favor of the resolution, which will go into effect in January 2014 and overturns more than century of organizational precedent. As the resolution does not alter the BSA's policy on adults, openly gay Scout leaders remain forbidden from participating in scouting activities. A Dallas Morning-News reporter captured activists celebrating after the news leaked out:
Last July, after a two-year study of the issue, BSA leaders announced its ban on openly gay scouts would remain on the books. But the Boy Scouts came under increasing pressure to revisit the ban, (from both within and without the organization, from individuals on the local and national level), culminating in widespread outrage over a scout named Ryan Andresen, who was denied the rank of Eagle Scout (the highest distinction in scouting) because he was openly gay. Two weeks later, in January 2013, the BSA' national board announced that they planned to vote on a new resolution permitting openly gay scouts and leaders to fully participate in scouting activities. A week later, however, the same officials delayed the vote until today, to coincide with a scheduled national meeting in Grapevine, Texas.
In anticipation of today's vote, BSA distributed a 58-page memo detailing the results of an in-depth survey conducted among scouts and leaders, who were asked about the current ban on openly gay participants. The memo characterized the issue of gay scouts as "among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today" and found that while a majority of the organization's youth opposed the ban on openly gay people, a majority of the adults participants supported it.
Today's vote does not end questions about BSA's policies, which would force openly gay Scouts to quit the organization upon turning 18.
Update, 6:25 p.m.: The Boy Scouts of America have released an official statement regarding Thursday's vote:
The Boy Scouts of America Statement:
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.
Based on growing input from within the Scouting family, the BSA leadership chose to conduct an additional review of the organization's long-standing membership policy and its impact on Scouting's mission. This review created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change.
Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting's history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America's National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote.
This policy change is effective Jan. 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 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. 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. 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.
Update, 6:30 p.m.: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, has responded to the resolution favorably, as anticipated. In a statement issued on Thursday following BSA's vote, the religious group, which maintains deep ties to BSA, said that "sexual orientation has not previously been—and is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops. Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest."