Ryan Andresen, who was thrown out of the Boy Scouts for being gay,
appeared on the Ellen show last year.

In a historic move, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has voted to allow gay youth to join the movement, but has retained its ban on gay adult Scout leaders.

The resolution to change its 103-year-old discriminatory membership policy was accepted by the 1,400 voting members of the BSA’s National Council on Thursday.

In a statement, the BSA said: “Today… the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. 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 news had been widely welcomed, although concern remains that the BSA’s policy towards openly gay adults remains a discriminatory one.

“Today’s vote is a significant victory for gay youth across the nation and a clear indication that the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adult leaders will also inevitably end,” said Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) spokesperson, Rich Ferraro.

GLAAD has been behind a high-profile year-long campaign that sought to put pressure on the BSA to change its policy. This included promoting petitions, signed by almost two million people, and urging corporate sponsors to suspend their funding of the organisation while the policy remained in place.

“The Boy Scouts of America heard from religious leaders, corporate sponsors and so many Scouting families who want an end to discrimination against gay people,” said Ferraro, adding that “GLAAD will continue this work with those committed to equality in Scouting until gay parents and adults are able to participate.”

“When I was kicked out of the Boy Scouts last April, I was devastated,” commented Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, who in April 2012, alongside GLAAD, reignited a national conversation about discrimination in Scouting after she was ousted as leader of her son’s Cub Scout pack because she’s gay.

“Having to look my son, Cruz, in the eye and tell him that our family isn’t good enough was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Today is truly a watershed moment for me, but even more so for the millions of kids across this country, who will now be allowed to serve in the Scouts without fear of rejection. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, but until there’s a place for everyone in Scouting, my work will continue,” said Tyrrell.

“We are relieved to hear that other Scouts will not have to suffer the rejection and expulsion that Ryan experienced, and we’re glad to see that the BSA is finally starting to see how harmful its discriminatory policies have been,” said Eric Andresen, who along with his wife Karen, launched a petition on in support of their openly gay son Ryan.

“Had this policy been in place just eight months ago, Ryan would already be an Eagle Scout, and he could’ve avoided so much pain,” said Andresen.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin welcomed the news but said that “the new policy doesn’t go far enough. Parents and adults of good moral character, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to volunteer their time to mentor the next generation of Americans.”

A December 2012 USA Today/Gallup poll found that 53% of Americans oppose gay adults serving as Boy Scout leaders.

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