DALLAS • The Boy Scouts of America has lifted its outright ban on openly gay adult leaders and employees, rolling back a policy that has deeply divided the membership of the 105-year-old organisation.
The new policy, which takes effect immediately, comes three years after it removed its prohibition on gay youths, but local Boy Scout units chartered by religious organisations will still be permitted to exclude gay adults from volunteering as den leaders, scoutmasters or camp counsellors. The resolution for change was backed by 79 per cent of its National Executive Board members in a vote on Monday, the Boy Scouts said.
The move was widely seen as being aimed at quelling a backlash against the Boy Scouts amid declining membership and the threat of litigation, while addressing concerns of religious institutions that account for about 70 per cent of the 100,000-plus Boy Scout units in the US. The rest are chartered to civic and educational groups.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the largest of all Boy Scout sponsors, said it was "deeply troubled" and its "century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined".
A number of corporate sponsors, such as Lockheed Martin and Intel, in recent years dropped their support for the Boy Scouts over policies they deemed discriminatory.
Boy Scouts president, former US defence secretary Robert Gates, stressed the new policy enables religiously chartered Scouting units to "continue to use religious beliefs as a criterion for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality". However, no adult applying for a paid job or to be a volunteer outside a local unit will be turned away because of sexual orientation, according to the resolution.