US Boy Scouts end ban on gay leaders

Washington, July 28 (IANS) Boy Scouts of America has ended its decades-long ban on gay scout leaders, but local scouting units may still keep gay applicants out if hiring them would violate their religious beliefs.

The organization’s national executive board, meeting in Texas, on Monday concluded that the policy of excluding gay adults “was no longer legally defensible”. The decision was approved by 79 percent of the board.

The board ratified a July 13 resolution adopted by its executive committee removing the national restriction on openly gay leaders and employees, Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates said in a video statement on Monday.

LGBT advocacy groups have said the change doesn’t go far enough.

The vote “to allow gay, lesbian and bisexual adults to work and volunteer is a welcome step toward erasing a stain on this important organization,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a statement cited by CNN.

“But including an exemption for troops sponsored by religious organizations undermines and diminishes the historic nature of today’s decision. Discrimination should have no place in the Boy Scouts, period.”

Some religious groups, on the other hand, said the decision goes too far. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a statement that the organization is “re-evaluating” its relationship with the Scouts.

“The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation,” the statement said.

“However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.”

Calling for the Scouts to end its ban on gay adults in remarks at the organization’s national business meeting in May, Gates said decisions on the Boy Scouts’ policy could also be dictated by the courts, and it would be better “to seize control of our own future”.

Many troops are sponsored by churches and religious organizations, which abide by the guidelines of their affiliation.

Gay youths have been allowed in the Boy Scouts since 2013.

“For far too long this issue has divided and distracted us,” Gates said. “Now it’s time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of scouting to be a force for good in the community and in the lives of its youth members.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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