Boy Scouts lift blanket ban on gay adult leaders

Updated: 2015-07-28 12:03


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Boy Scouts lift blanket ban on gay adult leaders

Boy Scout Casey Chambers carries a rainbow flag during the San Francisco Gay Pride Festival in California in this June 29, 2014 file photo. [Photo/Agencies]

DALLAS - The Boy Scouts of America lifted its outright ban on openly gay adult leaders and employees on Monday, rolling back a policy that has deeply divided the membership of the 105-year-old Texas-based organization.

The new policy, which takes effect immediately, comes three years after the organization removed its prohibition on gay youth, but local Boy Scout units chartered by religious organizations will still be permitted to exclude gay adults from serving as den leaders, scoutmasters or camp counselors.

The latest move was widely seen as being aimed at quelling a backlash against the Boy Scouts amid declining membership and the threat of litigation, while addressing concerns of religious institutions that account for about 70 percent of the 100,000-plus Boy Scout units nationwide.

The rest are chartered to civic groups and educational organizations.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest of all faith-based Boy Scout sponsors, said in a statement it was "deeply troubled" by the move and said the Mormons' "century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined."

The resolution implementing the change was backed by 79 percent of the National Executive Board members voting and present on Monday, the Boy Scouts said. The organization's executive committee had unanimously recommended adoption of the new policy on July 13, citing a "sea change in the law with respect to gay rights."

The Boy Scouts' president, former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, called for change in May, saying continuation of the blanket ban on gay Scout leaders was "unsustainable".

He repeated that assertion on Monday, saying any effort to keep the old policy intact "was inevitably going to result in simultaneous legal battles in multiple jurisdictions and at staggering cost."

He stressed that religiously chartered Scouting units "may continue to use religious beliefs as a criterion for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality."

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