One year after the Boy Scouts of America lifted a long-standing ban on gay youth -- but not gay adults -- the organization's new president said he would have gone the whole nine yards.
"I was prepared to go further than the decision that was made," Robert Gates told the Associated Press. "I would have supported having gay Scoutmasters, but at the same time, I fully accept the decision that was democratically arrived at by 1,500 volunteers from across the entire country."
Gates was selected as the BSA's president Friday at the organization's annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates addresses the Boy Scouts of America's annual meeting on Friday, May 23, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn., after being selected as the organization's new president. Gates is taking over one of the nation's largest youth organizations as it fights a membership decline and debates its policy toward gays. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
BSA membership voted last spring to lift restrictions on gay youth, but maintained a ban on gay adult leadership -- a decision that essentially allows openly gay boys to be Scouts until the age of 18, then forces them from the organization.
The compromise decision left many on both sides of the debate unsatisfied, and public pressure on the BSA seems not to have abated, with Disney announcing they would stop funding the organization this past March over the gay leader ban.
Nevertheless, Gates said he doesn't want to reopen the internal debate.
"Given the strong feelings — the passion — involved on both sides of this matter, I believe strongly that to re-open the membership issue or try to take last year's decision to the next step would irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement — with the high likelihood neither side would subsequently survive on its own," Gates said in prepared remarks.
Gates, 70, previously served as the director of the CIA and United States Secretary of Defense, retiring in 2011.
He earned his Eagle Scout, Scouting's highest rank, at the age of 15.
Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter