After a three-month process of research, surveys and discussions, the Boy Scouts of America have finally called for an end to their ban on openly gay Scouts, a spokesman said Friday. However, openly gay adults will still be barred from serving as troop leaders.
The organization’s board still needs to vote on a resolution, which will declare that “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
The Scouts’ existing stand toward gay members resembles the U.S. military’s now discarded “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. It states that while officials will not “proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members,” the organization does not “grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.”
Last year, the American Medical Association urged an end to the ban to prevent psychological trauma to young people. Several Scout troops refused to pay dues to the national organization, and high-profile supporters like United Way and Steven Spielberg parted with the group over the ban.
An announcement that the 103-year-old organization was considering changing this policy in January inflamed a debate, putting the religious right at odds with a group they generally consider to be an ally.
Groups like OnMyHonor.net formed to urge the Scouts to keep the ban in place, arguing that “sex and politics” had no place in the organization. Texas governor Rick Perry called on the group to keep the ban, and former senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum said the Scouts might not survive if they let gays in.
The organization delayed the vote on the change until May and engaged in study of its members similar to the one conducted by the military before it ended its ban on openly gay servicemembers.
A Quinnipiac University poll in February found that Americans support the Scouts ending their ban on openly gay members by a 55 to 33 percent margin.
More than 1,400 Boy Scout National Council members will vote on the new policy on May 22.
AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File