Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates is urging his organization to change course and possibly allow gay adults to participate — something that has traditionally been banned within the organization.
"The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained," Gates, former U.S. secretary of defense, said on Thursday at the Boy Scouts' annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, noting that local Boy Scouts groups will potentially be permitted in the future to make local decisions on the controversial matter.
In prepared remarks issued before his speech, Gates said that "urgent challenges" are causing him to look at the issue more intensely, as the current membership policy has sparked debate, with some councils blatantly operating in violation of it; rather than revoke their charters, he said that it is time for the organization to confront its policies.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is now president of the Boy Scouts of America (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)
"Nor can we ignore the social, political and juridical changes taking place in our country — changes taking place at a pace over the past year no one anticipated," he said. "I remind you of the recent debates we have seen in places like Indiana and Arkansas over discrimination based on sexual orientation, not to mention the impending U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer on gay marriage."
He went on to say that the status quo cannot be continued and, though he was not asking for specific action, Gates said that, "We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be," and expressed fears over legal challenges.
Gates' comments come after the Boy Scouts of America’s 2013 decision to adopt a new policy allowing openly gay youths to join the organization. That decision has sparked a great deal of debate as well as the creation of a competitor called Trail Life USA, a Christian organization that describes itself as an “adventure, character, and leadership movement for young men.”
The alternative group attracted 20,000 members in its first 12 months and has continued to grow.
“The seeds of [Trail Life USA] were planted over a number of years as there was a general sense that BSA was abandoning its traditional values,” Trail Life USA CEO Mark Hancock told TheBlaze earlier this year. “The May 2013 decision to allow open and avowed homosexual youth against the wishes of a majority of members could be seen as the catalyst that caused hundreds of volunteers to get serious about creating an alternative.”
There will not be an immediate change to policy when it comes to admitting gay adults for participation, though Gates' comments could lead to amendments in the near future.
This is a breaking news story. Stay tuned for updates.