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Boy Scouts of America Moves to Lift Ban on Gay Adults by Summer's End

Boy Scouts of America Moves to Lift Ban on Gay Adults by Summer's End

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A resolution OK'd by a committee Friday still needs ratification by the group's executive board, which will meet July 27.

The Boy Scouts of America has moved one step closer to ending the group's ban on gay adults serving as employees or volunteers, with the national executive committee approving a resolution to lift the ban.

The resolution, OK'd unanimously Friday, requires ratification from the national executive board, the BSA's governing body, which will consider it July 27. But if ratified, it will go into effect immediately, reports Scouts for Equality, an organization that has advocated for an end to the ban.

At the BSA's national meeting in May, its president, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, had said the ban must end "sooner rather than later." The group lifted its ban on gay and bisexual youth members at the beginning of 2014, but the prohibition on gay and bi adults remained.

A statement released by the BSA mentions "the rapid changes in society and increasing legal challenges at the federal, state, and local levels." The group could face lawsuits in states with gay-inclusive nondiscrimination laws if the policy continues, and Gates has acknowledged that the policy has become increasingly difficult to defend in court, given advances in gay rights laws.

While lifting the across-the-board ban on gay and bisexual adults in scouting, the resolution does "allow each individual troop or unit to determine its own policy regarding the eligibility of openly gay or bisexual scoutmasters or other adult leaders," according to Scouts for Equality's summary. This means that church-sponsored troops, for instance, would not have to allow gay leaders.

It also bars regional governing councils or nontroop institutions, such as Boy Scout camps, from discriminating against employees and volunteers based on sexual orientation, and allows previously removed leaders to reapply for their positions.

Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality, issued a statement praising the move. "For decades, the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gay adults has stood as a towering example of explicit, institutional homophobia in one of America's most important and recognizable civic organizations," said Wahls, an Eagle Scout and the son of two mothers. "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."

The Human Rights Campaign also saw the resolution as progress but denounced the religious exemption. "The vote by the executive committee to recommend that gay, lesbian and bisexual adults be allowed to work and volunteer for the Boy Scouts is a welcome step toward erasing a stain on one of our nation's most storied organizations," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a prepared statement. "But writing in an exemption for troops organized by religious organizations undermines the potentially historic nature of today's vote. As we have said countless times, half measures are unacceptable and discriminatory exemptions have no place in the Boy Scouts. It's long overdue that BSA leaders demonstrate true leadership and embrace a full national policy of inclusion that does not discriminate against anyone because of who they are."

Scouts for Equality has posted the full resolution, along with explanatory documents, here.

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