Boy Scouts Executive Committee Votes to Lift Ban on Gay Leaders

The executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America has voted unanimously to adopt a resolution (12 pages, PDF) to allow chartered troops to select adult leaders without regard to sexual orientation, in effect lifting the organization's ban on openly gay and bisexual leaders.

The vote follows BSA president Robert M. Gates' call at the national organization's annual meeting in May for the executive committee to resolve the issue. A vote by the full executive board to ratify the resolution will be held on July 27. The board voted in 2013 to amend the BSA policy to say that no youth may be denied membership "on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone" but retained the ban on adult gay and bisexual leaders. While the new resolution would lift that ban, prohibit regional governing councils or affiliated groups from discriminating against employees and volunteers based on their sexual orientation, and allow previously dismissed leaders to reapply for their positions, it does not require councils or troops to allow adult gay leaders, leaving it instead to individual troops or units to determine their own policies.

"The Boy Scouts of America rejects any interference with or condemnation of the diverse beliefs of chartering organizations on matters of marriage, family, and sexuality," the resolution reads. "The message of Scouting is one of toleration and respect for different religious and moral conclusions in this matter, acknowledging that reasonable minds may honorably differ. Any effort to exclude or penalize chartering organizations based on their beliefs or policies regarding marriage, family, or sexuality is contrary to the Boy Scouts of America's commitment to religious freedom and respect for the beliefs and convictions of its chartered organizations."

The resolution also states that "[t]he Boy Scouts of America will defend and indemnify to the fullest extent allowed by law any bona fide religious chartered organization against any claim or action contending that the chartered organization's good faith refusal to select a unit leader based upon the religious principles of the chartered organization is in violation of the law."

"For decades, the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gay adults has stood as a towering example of explicit, institutional homophobia in one of America's most important and recognizable civic organizations," said Zach Wahls, the executive director of Scouts for Equality. "While this policy change is not perfect — BSA's religious chartering partners will be allowed to continue to discriminate against gay adults — it is difficult to overstate the importance of today's announcement."

"Update on Adult Leadership Standards." Boy Scouts of America Press Release 07/13/2015. "Boy Scouts of America’s Executive Committee Unanimously Approves End to Ban on Gay Adults." Scouts for Equality Press Release 07/13/2015.