The executive committee of the Boy Scouts of America has announced that its members voted unanimously on Friday to allow gay scout leaders, a ban which has long made the organization a target of gay rights organizations. In a brief statement, the committee cited “the rapid changes in society” and “increasing legal challenges at the federal, state, and local levels” as the primary factors behind the decision.
The change in policy isn’t much of a surprise. Boy Scouts President Robert Gates this spring had called the ban “unsustainable.” The national executive board is expected to ratify the change later this month.
The organization’s national council voted in May 2013 to lift its ban on gay scouts. President Obama even inserted himself into the debate, urging the Boy Scouts of America to open its membership to gays and lesbians in a pre-Super Bowl interview on CBS News. The ban on scout leaders remained in place, however.
Legal challenges certainly weren’t the only problem the Scouts faced. Some major donors, such as the Merck Foundation, had pulled their funding of the Boy Scouts, and entertainers like Carly Rae Jepsen and Train pulled out of scheduled events in protest.
Some holdouts were done with the Boy Scouts earlier this year, when the 2015 handbook announced a ban on water gun fights and fights with water balloons that are non-biodegradable and larger than “ping-pong ball size.” “Pointing a simulated firearm at another individual is not aligned with our Scout Oath nor Scout Law,” explained communications director Kerrie Mitchell.
So, water pistols are banned and gay scout leaders are now welcome. Can we get some recognition for the Scouts’ evolution?
The Boy Scouts still lag behind the Girl Scouts when it comes to progressive issues. The Girl Scouts, whose Honorary National President is first lady Michelle Obama, have welcomed transgender girls into their organization for years and recently camped out on the White House lawn. Will the Boy Scouts get an invitation now?