After its historic vote to grant membership to openly gay youth, leaders of Boy Scouts of America are anxious to “move forward” as a unified Scouting family, even as an unknown number of chartering organizations, councils, troops and members reassess their participation in the iconic institution.
The new membership policy — approved by 61 percent of nearly 1,300 voting members — says that “no youth will be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
The door only opens for gay youth; the ban on openly gay adults in Scouting was reaffirmed by the May 23 vote.
The new youth policy goes into effect Jan. 1, and a BSA task force is already in place to develop guidelines about how it will be implemented.
BSA leaders said at a news conference after Thursday’s vote that they were sure the new youth policy is best for both the BSA and American youth. The policy reaffirms Scouts’ “duty to God,” as well as the organization’s core virtues and values, said BSA National President Wayne Perry.
It also reflects Scouting members’ strong support that the BSA “serve every kid,” he said.
BSA Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock echoed Mr. Perry, adding that, “I believe this resolution is truly in the best interest of Scouting.”
“Now the decision has been made. It’s time to move forward, and it’s time to stand together,” said Mr. Brock.
After the vote, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement, signaling its readiness to continue sponsoring its nearly 38,000 BSA units.
“Sexual orientation has not previously been — and is not now — a disqualifying factor for boys who want to join” Mormon troops, the church said. Moral behavior in youth includes abstinence from sexual relationships, and “willingness to abide by standards of behavior continues to be our compelling interest,” it said.
In its statement, the BSA said that now that its exhaustive efforts to address a new membership policy are decided, “there are no plans for further review on this matter.”
However, gay-rights’ groups — virtually without skipping a beat — said that changing the BSA rule for youth was only half of what they want, and the ban on adult gays had to go as well.
“Supporters of inclusive Scouting will not rest until this institution is safe and equal for all people,” said Mark Noel, founder of the Inclusive Scouting Network. “Discrimination on any level is unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, people who oppose the policy change are considering their options.
In June, a meeting will be held in Kentucky to discuss the creation of a new character-development organization for boys that will uphold the “truly timeless values that once made the BSA great,” said John Stemberger, founder of OnMyHonor.net.
“We grieve today, not because we are faced with leaving Scouts, but because the Boy Scouts of America has left us,” Mr. Stemberger said.
Traditional-values groups decried the vote, saying the new policy will soon embroil the BSA in battles over gender identity, transgenderism, faith and morality issues.
“While the Boy Scouts may see a compromise, the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender-questioning left is already doubling down and insisting they will get the rest and push for gay Scoutmasters,” said Andrea Lafferty, president of the Traditional Values Coalition.
Under its current leadership, the BSA has become “another casualty of moral compromise,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
“There is little doubt that God will soon be ushered out of Scouting,” added Mr. Perkins. “Now is the time for new leadership.”