In a move from long-held tradition, the Boy Scouts of America has plans to eliminate the ban on openly gay scout leaders. However, this move would not apply to church-led scout groups, which can still choose scout leaders "whose beliefs are consistent with their own."
According to Greg Toppo of USA Today, the 17-member executive committee of the Boy Scouts unanimously approved a resolution earlier this month to scrap a blanket ban on gay adult leaders and allow individual scout unites to set their own policies on that issue. The organization's 80-member board will vote on the resolution on Monday.
"I must speak as plainly and bluntly to you as I spoke to presidents when I was director of CIA and secretary of defense," former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the organization's national president, said to scout leaders. "We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained."
Gates pointed out that the events of the last year "have confronted us with urgent challenges I did not foresee and which we cannot ignore." According to Toppo, those challenges included new state laws and court decisions that barred discrimination based on sexual orientation.
"[The Boy Scouts] finds itself in an unsustainable position," Gates said in regards to the organization's ban on gay scout leaders.
While Gates noted that revoking charters of councils that allowed gay leaders could continue under the current policy, he stated that "such an action would deny the lifelong benefits of scouting to hundreds of thousands of boys and young men today and vastly more in the future."
"I will not take that path," Gates quipped.
According to Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post, about 70 percent of Boy Scout troops are run by faith-based groups. Many of them come from conservative communities that do not accept gay equality, including Mormons, Catholics, Southern Baptists and Muslims.
"It's not clear how these changes will play out in the years to come, as some conservative leaders say like-minded troops are moving away from the Scouts," Boorstein wrote.
Southern Baptist Convention spokesman Roger Oldham wrote in an email that he feared even church-based groups would be required to fully accept gay leaders.
"The next step, which may be a year or two down the road, seems obvious to us," Oldham wrote.
According to USA Today, membership in the Boy Scouts has declined in the past decade. However, the organization acknowledged in its figures that the 2013 decision to allow gay youth to join its ranks resulted in a steep 7.4 percent drop from 2013 to 2014.