The Boy Scouts of America lifted its longstanding ban on openly gay youths participating in its activities on Thursday, a move that was approved by more than 60 percent of the approximately 1,400 votes cast by members of the BSA’s National Council meeting in Texas.
“The 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 BSA stated in a statement Thursday.
The policy, which takes effect Jan. 1, marks the first time in the program’s 103-year existence that openly gay youths have been allowed into the BSA ranks. Gay adults will remain barred from serving in BSA leadership roles.
The controversial decision was applauded by rights advocates as a step forward for the organization, though it may cause short-term membership deficiencies and economic ramifications. Many Scout units in conservative areas have expressed fear that the move will stop local donors from giving.
“The Northeast Illinois Council will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue,” BSA Scout Executive Mike Hale, of the Northeast Illinois Council, said in a statement.
“While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that youth are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America’s youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people in Lake and Cook County.”
Initially, the national statement by the organization, such a staple in many children’s lives, was difficult to confirm. It was posted on the Boy Scouts of America website under the “Voting Member Information” section instead of with the rest of the organization’s news releases. It was later changed, and the news was featured on its landing page.
Elsewhere on the site, the scouting organization, promoting its charity states: “The Boy Scouts of America changes lives by providing youth with character development, citizenship training, personal fitness, and leadership skills they will carry forward into their adult lives. The values Scouting instills are just as relevant in helping youth grow to their full potential as they were in 1910 when the organization was founded.”
Click for previous coverage on this issue appearing on The Chicago Bureau and JJIE, including Newly Released Boy Scout Files Shed Light on Sex Abuse in Youth Groups.