A century-old ban on openly gay youth members of the Boy Scouts of America has come to an end.
The Boy Scouts of America voted on May 23 to accept openly gay scouts. Over 60 percent of the BSA's National Council (with 1,400 voting members) voted to end the ban on youth. The policy change will take effect on January 1, 2014.
The vote arrived three months after the organization delayed a decision to change its membership policy to research attitudes toward accepting gay members. The BSA emphasized that they will not accept sexual conduct by any scout, "whether heterosexual or homosexual".
However, the ban will remain on adults.
Approximately 70 percent of the 116,000 Boy Scout units are chartered by religious institutions. The Mormon church and the United Methodist Church both expressed support for ending the ban.
"Sexual orientation has not previously been—and is not now—a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join Latter-day Saint Scout troops," the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stated in an official news release in response to the BSA announcement. "Willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest…We trust that BSA will implement and administer the approved policy in an appropriate and effective manner."
However, the policy change has been met with disapproval, resistance, and threats of resignation or defection from conservative churches and scout leaders.
Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President Frank Page said he was "deeply saddened" that the BSA has overturned its "constitutionally protected expressive message that homosexual behavior is incompatible with the principles enshrined in the Scout Oath and Scout Law".
The BSA has also faced financial pressure to change its policy as some of its major corporate sponsors, including Intel Corp, United Parcel Service, and Merck & Co withdrew support from troops that banned gay scouts.
Meanwhile, Scouts Canada has been committed to ensuring diversity, including queer people, in its membership since 2000. Anyone "regardless of gender, race, culture, religious belief, sexual orientation or economic circumstance" is welcome to join.
In the Frequently Asked Questions section on the Scouts Canada website, Scouts Canada specifically states "Scouts Canada does not discriminate for reasons of gender, culture, religious belief or sexual orientation".