If ever there was a week to quietly announce a major organizational change, this is it.
A spokesman with the Boy Scouts of America on Friday announced that the 103-year-old organization is set to lift its long-standing ban on openly gay youth members but will continue to exclude gays as adult leaders.
However, as Reuters notes, the group’s board “still has to vote in May on whether to ratify the resolution.”
If the vote goes through, “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” Deron Smith, the organization’s spokesman, told Reuters.
“In January, the BSA said it was considering a plan to give local Scout units the option of admitting gays as both youth members and adult leaders or continuing to exclude them,” the Associated Press notes.
The BSA’s decision, according to Smith, is the result of months of discussion, surveys and research and was “among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today.”
The review, said a BSA statement, “created an outpouring of feedback” from 200,000 respondents, some supporting the ban and other against it.
“While perspectives and opinions vary significantly, parents, adults in the Scouting community and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting,” the statement said.
The BSA’s Executive Committee as a result of their research decided to craft a resolution proposing to remove the gay ban.
“The proposed 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,” the statement said.
The question over whether to admit openly gay and lesbian members to the Boy Scouts has long been a contentious issue.
It has “divided organizers, polarized its corporate and religious sponsors, and placed the group at the center of a nationwide debate over gay rights over the past two years,” Reuters notes.
“This is a historic change for the Boy Scouts,” said Patrick Boyle, whose 1994 book “Scout’s Honor” scrutinized sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts of America.
“You have a more than hundred-year-old organization changing what it considered a fundamental belief just a decade ago. That says a lot about the Scouts and a lot about how far the gay rights movement has come in the United States.”
Here’s the official statement:
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Featured image flickr. This post has been updated.