US & Canada

Boy Scouts of America votes to end ban on gay adults

US boy scouts salute while listening to the national anthem - 16 April 2011 Image copyright AFP
Image caption A ban on allowing openly gay boys to be members of the group was overturned in 2013

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has unanimously approved a resolution to end the organisation's ban on gay adults working as leaders.

The group's national executive board will meet to ratify the resolution on 27 July, the Boy Scouts said in a statement.

It is a major step towards ending a policy that has caused deep rifts in the group, which was set up in 1910.

In 2013, the BSA ended a ban allowing openly gay boys to become scouts.

Earlier this year, former US defence secretary Robert Gates, who is BSA president, told the group's national meeting that the ban on gay adults needed to end, saying it was no longer sustainable.

The selection of Mr Gates as president in 2014 was seen as an opportunity to revisit the policy since he helped end the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that barred openly gay people from serving in the US military.

The resolution, which was passed by the BSA's 17-member executive committee on Friday, will become official policy if it is ratified by the 80-member executive board later this month.

It will allow scout units to set their own policy on the issue and mean they can select adult leaders without regard to sexual orientation.

It will, however, also allow units with religious ties to "continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own".

Several denominations that sponsor large numbers of scout units - including the Roman Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention - have been apprehensive about ending the ban on gay adults.

The resolution was hailed by Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout (the highest boy scout rank) raised by two lesbians who now heads the advocacy group 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," Mr Wahls said.

Related Topics

More on this story