The president of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has called on his organisation to vote to allow gay boys to be included in the movement.
The organisation’s leadership has proposed that the ban on gay Scouts be lifted at its National Annual Meeting in Texas on Thursday, where 1,400 members will vote on the issue.
In an opinion piece published by USA Today, BSA President Wayne Perry writes that allowing gay youth in the Scouts is “the right decision for Boy Scouts”.
He said: “The change to the Boy Scouts of America’s membership policy is not the result of pressure from outside; it is the result of extensive dialogue within the Scouting family. Parents, adults in the Scouting community and teens alike tend to agree that youth should not be denied the benefits of Scouting. The resolution is not about adults; it is about what is best for young people.”
Perry added: “Some have voiced concerns that this proposal could put children at risk of being abused. The BSA makes no connection between sexual abuse and homosexuality. The nation’s leading experts agree.”
Although the proposal, if approved, would open the doors to gay youth, gay and lesbian adults will still not be able to take part in the organisation.
Perry acknowledged this but said: “While some people wish the proposed resolution would go further, it was clear from our listening phase that changing adult standards would have conflicted with the majority of our partners, 70% of which are religious organisations, and would have disrupted our ability to deliver Scouting.”
Lesbians and gays have been prohibited from becoming members or serving in leadership positions in the Boy Scouts of America for 103 years.
The organisation’s current position statement on the issue reads: “We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed, and that homosexuals do not provide a desirable role model for Scouts.”
US courts have affirmed the BSA’s right as a private organisation to place restrictions on its membership, but the organisation has come under increasing pressure in recent years to end the ban and has lost funding over the issue.
A December 2012 USA Today/Gallup poll found that 53% of Americans oppose gay adults serving as Boy Scout leaders.