The policy change took effect immediately following a 45-12 vote by the National Executive Board in Irving, Texas.
“This change allows scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered by organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families,” the organization said in a statement, adding that retaining the ban “was no longer legally defensible.”
Boy Scout President Robert Gates, who had pushed for the change, likewise applauded the majority vote.
“We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained,” he said.
The vote comes just two weeks after an executive committee of the BSA unanimously voted to lift the ban.
“As a result of the rapid changes in society and increasing legal challenges at the federal, state, and local levels, … the Boy Scouts of America Executive Committee adopted a resolution amending the adult leadership standards policy,” it said in a statement.
The standards still require leaders to declare their duty to God and to be “moral” persons, but simultaneously allow those who are “sexually oriented” to those of the same gender to lead the young boys and teen members.
“The Boy Scouts of America affirms that sexual relations between adults should be moral, honorable, committed, and respectful. Adult scout leaders should reflect these values in their personal and public lives so as to be proper role models for youth,” the approved new policy reads in part.
“The applicant must possess the moral, educational, and emotional qualities that the Boy Scouts of America deems necessary to afford positive leadership to youth,” it continues. “The applicant must also be the correct age, subscribe to the precepts of the Declaration of Religious Principle (duty to God), and abide by the Scout Oath and the Scout Law.”
While the policy declares that “[n]o adult applicant for registration as an employee or non-unit-serving volunteer, who otherwise meets the requirements of the Boy Scouts of America, may be denied registration on the basis of sexual orientation,” it also allows units to refuse based on their religious convictions.
“This change allows Scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families,” BSA outlined. “This change would also respect the right of religious chartered organizations to continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”
Reaction over this week’s vote has been mixed.
John Norcross, committee chairman and former Connecticut scoutmaster, told reporters that he welcomed the amended policy.
“We definitely have to change with the times,” he said. “There are things that are pretty old with the Boy Scouts and we just have to get caught up with the times and the way life is now.”
But John Stemberger of Trail Life USA, an alternative to BSA, lamented the direction that the organization is headed.
“Prior to this compromise on the Boy Scouts of America’s part, there were people—both adults and young people—with the same-sex attraction in scouting. Everybody knew who they were, but they were appropriate, they were discreet, they didn’t act out, they didn’t make a big deal about it. Under the new policy, they can be now openly gay, and in America that means flaunting, that means sexual innuendo. [It’s] completely inappropriate behavior in a youth program,” he said.