US: Boy Scouts of America set to accept gay youth members

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

On 1 January the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is to enact an historic change in policy to allow openly gay youth members to join its ranks.

Back in May 2013, the national council of the BSA voted to lift the ban on openly gay youth members, with over 60% of the 1400 strong voting body backing the lifting of the ban.

The change allows individual scouting troops to decide whether to allow gay members. The official lifting of the ban takes place on 1 January 2014.

The organisation said it needed time to make necessary changes.

While openly gay members will be permitted, gay adult volunteers and staff will still be prohibited.

The decision to allow gay youth members to serve in the BSA has proven controversial for some troops, and a few have severed their ties with the governing body.

Remaining optimistic, however, the BSA said that less than 2% of its troops made the decision to cut ties.

A member of the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) national executive board earlier this week spoke out about the organisation’s change of policy to allow gay members, to say the organisation hopes it will be a non-event like the Y2K scare in 1999.

Troop number 835, from the Auburn and Pacific area of Washington this week announced that it is the latest to abandon the BSA over the move. Others have said they will do so once the policy changes.

The President of the BSA Wayne Perry, on the day that the vote was made, wrote an editorial piece for USA Today, in which he said allowing gay members into the scouts would be “the right decision.”

In July 2012, after a two year review, the Boy Scouts of America announced it would retain its ban on gay members, volunteers and staff.

The Boy Scouts of America became embroiled in a debate over whether to lift its ban on gay volunteers, members and staff. In February, it delayed the vote until May “due to the complexity of the issue”.

A poll released in February found that a majority of US voters thought the Boy Scouts of America should drop its ban on gay scouts, volunteers and staff.