The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has staved off legal action after it announced that it will allow any child who identifies as a boy to join its programmes.
The move followed a discrimination lawsuit against the New Jersey Boy Scouts’ Council by eight-year-old Joe Maldonado and his mother, Kristie Maldonado. He was kicked out of a troop last year for being a transgender boy.
On Monday, the BSA confirmed that it “will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application”.
The announcement reverses the previous policy in which enrolment was based on “the information provided for [on] an individual’s birth certificate and their biological sex”.
The organisation explained that it had made the decision because, “that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state”.
Maldonado told AP that she had received a call from a BSA representative informing her of the news. “I’m so grateful. I really am that they’re accepting and that there won’t be any issues. They (other transgender youth) won’t have to go through what my son went through,” she said.
She admitted, however, that she remains angry at the humiliation her young son faced as a result of his expulsion.
The traditionally conservative BSA has had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century when it comes to issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.
It was only in December 2013 that the BSA announced an end to its long-standing ban on gay and lesbian scouts after years of opposition to the policy. In July 2015, it also finally agreed to allow adult gays and lesbians as employees and volunteers in the organisation.
In South Africa, Scouts South Africa has no restrictions on the basis of gender, sex or sexual orientation.