The Boy Scouts of America lifted a ban on openly gay youth Thursday, a change that will begin January of next year. A ban on gay Scout leaders remains in place.
More than 61% of the Boy Scouts national council approved a resolution overturning the longstanding ban at its annual meeting in Texas, The Times’ Molly Hennessy-Fiske reported. The 103-year-old group is among the nation’s largest youth organizations, with more than 2.6 million youth members.
Gay rights advocates called the decision a historic moment and step in the right direction. Opponents vowed to fight the new policy, which they warned would damage flagging membership and funding.
After delaying a vote earlier this year, Boy Scout executives polled members on the issue this spring and devised the resolution as a compromise.
The prohibition of gay Scout leaders remains unchanged, and in a statement issued after the vote, the Boy Scouts noted the resolution reinforces the stipulation that any sexual conduct by youths in the program is “contrary to the virtues of Scouting.”
Wayne Brock, chief executive of Boy Scouts of America, called the debate “a challenging chapter in our history” and said the vote was “truly in the best interests of Scouting.”
“It allows us to better serve kids,” he said. “The decision has been made — it’s time to stand together.”
A national team will begin working with local councils in the coming days to prepare guidelines for implementing the resolution, officials said.
It was not immediately clear whether the new policy would help or hurt Boy Scout membership and funding. About 70% of troops are sponsored by religious organizations, the largest among them the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mormon officials had supported the resolution, though some troops affiliated with conservative churches have said they could not accept the new policy.
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