The Boy Scouts are expected to end the ban on gay leaders and volunteers Monday. It will still allow troops affiliated with religious groups to deny leadership roles based on sexual orientation.
Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
The executive board of the Boy Scouts of America has ended its outright ban on gay scout leaders today, but there's a caveat. NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports that the resolution allows each scout unit to decide for itself whether to accept gay adult leaders.
WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Perhaps no organization has been more roiled by the nation's debate over gay rights than the Boy Scouts of America. Two months ago, BSA president and former defense secretary Robert Gates addressed his collective members in Atlanta about the issue of gays in scouting.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
ROBERT GATES: I told you a year ago that I would oppose reopening this issue during my two-year term as president of the BSA. However, events during the past year have confronted us with an urgent challenge which we cannot ignore.
GOODWYN: Back in 2013, the Boy Scouts made an historic change. It allowed gay boys to become troop members, but also continued the ban on gay men from becoming troop leaders. Gates admitted that in the last two years, troops around the country began disregarding the mandates coming out of the national headquarters by announcing that gay men and boys are welcome in their troop.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
GATES: We cannot ignore growing internal challenges to our current membership policy in open defiance of the policy.
GOODWYN: That 2013 decision infuriated religious and conservative members to the point that many left. John Stemberger is a Florida lawyer and Boy Scout leader who spearheaded a breakaway group of Christian scouts and started a new scouting organization, Trail Life USA. Stemberger says the Boy Scouts's national leadership has gone its own way.
JOHN STEMBERGER: The leadership did this without the rank and file scout leaders' consent. Most scout masters did not want this. So basically, the professionals have hijacked the Boy Scouts of America. That's what we got here.
GOODWYN: Stemberger says today's move further to the left to allow gay scout leaders in the Boy Scouts will only alienate church groups like the Southern Baptist Association and the Catholic Bishops further. And by coming up with a policy that puts the onus of the discrimination on the local troop, it exposes them to increased legal vulnerability, especially now that the Supreme Court has legally blessed gay marriage.
STEMBERGER: In light of the Supreme Court's case, it's only a matter of time before churches that have traditional values are going to come under legal attack.
GOODWYN: Supporters of the changes inside the scouting community say the transformation is overdue and necessary if the Boy Scouts want to survive. For cub master Henry Cloch in Southern California, the issue is even simpler.
HENRY CLOCH: I would welcome the opportunity to have any volunteers, be they gay, straight or whatever. We need parents to help. We've got about 40, 50 kids, and I've got about six people that do everything.
GOODWYN: With the Boy Scouts of America's executive board's decision today, Cloch's chances with parents are about to improve. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.