The Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) executive committee voted unanimously on Friday to lift the organization’s long-standing ban on gay and bisexual adults. If ratified by the full national executive board at its July 27 meeting, the prohibition will be immediately lifted and each individual troop or unit will be free to determine its own policy regarding the eligibility of openly gay or bisexual adult leaders.
The resolution, announced Monday, will allow prevent discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in council employment decisions and allow those adults previously kicked out based on their sexual orientation to reapply.
Two years ago, roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA’s national council voted 61–38 percent to end the ban on gay youth participating in the program, but reaffirmed their policy of mandatory discrimination against LGBT adult leaders and volunteers.
In May, BSA national president and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates Robert Gates called on the organization to lift the ban. “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” he told the organization, adding, “The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.”
Unlike the 2013 vote, this change would only require the support of the national executive board, a group of about 70 officials from around the country.
In a BSA statement, the group attributed the shift to “rapid changes in society and increasing legal challenges at the federal, state, and local levels,” and said, “Scouting will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth to help them grow into good, strong citizens. By focusing on the goals that unite us, we are able to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.”
Scouts for Equality Executive Director Zach Wahls said in a statement that this vote “hopefully marks the beginning of the end of the Boy Scouts of America’s decades-old ban on gay leaders and parents like my two moms.”
“For decades, the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay adults has stood as a towering example of explicit, institutional homophobia in one of America’s most important and recognizable civic organizations,” he added, noting that, “While this policy change is not perfect — BSA’s religious chartering partners will be allowed to continue to discriminate against gay adults — it is difficult to overstate the importance of today’s announcement.”