In a landmark decision, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has finally agreed to allow gays and lesbians in the organisation – at least in most cases.
On Monday, 79 percent of the BSA’s National Executive Board voted in favour of a resolution to remove the ban on adults serving as employees and volunteers with immediate effect.
In December 2013, the BSA announced an end to its long-standing ban on gay and lesbian scouts but continued to restrict adults. It was widely understood that this was due to an unfounded and discriminatory fear that gay adults could present a danger to minors.
While a major step forward, the new policy is far from perfect. Although it bars discrimination based on the sexual orientation of organisation employees, it still allows church-organised local units to consider an individual’s sexual orientation when deciding who can volunteer and lead Cub Scout packs, Boy Scout troops, and Venturing crews.
In a statement, BSA National President Robert M. Gates justified the exemption by explaining that it “respects the right of religious chartered organisations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) welcomed the latest move, but said that “including an exemption for troops sponsored by religious organisations undermines and diminishes the historic nature” of the decision.
“Discrimination should have no place in the Boy Scouts, period,” commented HRC President Chad Griffin.
“BSA officials should now demonstrate true leadership and begin the process of considering a full national policy of inclusion that does not allow discrimination against anyone because of who they are,” he said.
Because the BSA is a private organisation, the US courts have upheld its right to apply membership restrictions, even if these are discriminatory.