Boy Scouts of America Votes to Allow Gay Scout Leaders, With One Big Caveat

Irving-based Boy Scouts of America has lifted its prohibition on gay scoutmasters. Monday night, the Scouts' National Executive Board voted to accept the unanimous July 13 recommendation of the BSA's national executive committee to dump the organization's across-the-board ban, while still allowing individual troops to discriminate as they see fit.

"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," the BSA said in a statement before the vote. "This change would also respect the right of religious chartered organizations to continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own."

More than 70 percent of BSA Scout troops are hosted by religious organizations.

Richard Land, the president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, said in May that the BSA's allowing gay troop leaders would open the door to pedophilia in the organization's leadership ranks.

"Who in their right mind would suggest that heterosexual men should be Girl Scout masters and lead groups of minor girls in troop activities? This would be cause for outcry," he said after Robert Gates, the BSA's president, endorsed the idea of gay troop leaders. "Why? Because heterosexual men are attracted to females. For the same reasons you wouldn’t want heterosexual men being Girl Scouts, you shouldn’t have homosexual men become Boy Scout leaders."

Scouts for Equality, a BSA alumni group that's pushed for acceptance for both gay Scouts — BSA's ban on gay kids was lifted in 2013 — and leaders said the new policy was imperfect, but still an improvement.

"While we still have some reservations about individual units discriminating against gay adults, we couldn’t be more excited about the future of Scouting. We look forward to collaborating with our supporters, progressive faith partners, allied non-profit organizations, and the Boy Scouts of America to ensure a fully inclusive Scouting movement," Scouts for Equality's Executive Director Zach Wahls said.
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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young