The Boy Scouts of America decided Monday to allow openly gay men and women to be volunteer leaders and work in the organization’s offices, a major concession by the group in a protracted battle between the Boy Scouts of America and LGBT activists.
The decision was prodded by gay rights groups threatening lawsuits against the organization and has caused consistent infighting in the organization.
The Boy Scouts of America stressed that the decision allows chartered groups to use sexuality and religion as a factor in choosing a scout leader.
“Chartered organizations will continue to select their adult leaders and religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality,” the Boy Scouts of America said in a statement. “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. This change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”
That provision for local exemptions has left LGBT groups unsatisfied, saying it still allows for discrimination. They’re calling for a ban on discrimination based on sexuality at every level, including at the local level even for troops sponsored by religious organizations.
“Today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America to allow gay, lesbian and bisexual adults to work and volunteer is a welcome step toward erasing a stain on this important organization,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “But including an exemption for troops sponsored by religious organizations undermines and diminishes the historic nature of today’s decision. Discrimination should have no place in the Boy Scouts, period.”
The Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board voted 79 percent in favor of the policy change. National President of the Boy Scouts of America and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced the decision via video.
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