Boy Scouts of America Logo
Boy Scouts of America LogoWikimedia Commons

The Boy Scouts of America has finally decided to let gay and bisexuals to become troop leaders in its 105 year old organisation, two years after opening its doors to gay scouts.

The decision, voted unanimously by the organisation's executive council, however gives the final decision on whether to accept gay or bisexual troop leaders to individual local troops.

This allows religious organisations to continue gay leaders and secular organisations to include them, the LA Times reported.

The organisation's national executive board is expected to ratify the decision at its scheduled meeting on 27 July.

In a statement issued after the executive council vote on Friday, the organisation said "as a result of the rapid changes in society and increasing legal challenges at the federal, state and local levels," the organisation has decided to amend the adult leadership standards policy.

The decision would allow "scouting's members and parents to select local units, chartered to organisations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families.

"This change would also respect the right of religious chartered organisations to continue to choose adult leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own," it said.

The Southern Baptist Convention spokesman Roger Oldham said that he was disappointed but not surprised by the decision.

The Boy Scouts of America went to the Supreme Court in 2000 over its right to discriminate against Scout leaders on the basis of sexual orientation. In the lawsuit, it fought for the right to exclude a gay Scout leader on the basis that homosexual conduct was inconsistent with its religious beliefs and mission to inculcate values in young people.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Boy Scouts had a constitutional right to exclude openly gay Scout masters based on the Scout's first amendment freedom of association.

Memo to members

Boy Scouts of America Now Accept Gay Members Into Ranks, Make or Break?

In a 14 page memo on its website, the Boy Scout organisation said that if it were to litigate the same case today, it would most certainly lose as the government's interest in protecting against sexual orientation discrimination has increased dramatically and is expected to continue to increase.

It said the change would eliminate the organisation's "prohibition on gay leaders, but it would be consistent with the BSA's current policy of allowing each religious chartered organisation to select unit leaders.

"The change in the BSA policy would still allow units chartered by religious organisations that as a matter of religious belief consider homosexual conduct inconsistent with their religion to limit adult leadership in accordance with that belief."

Units that are not chartered by religious organisations however cannot exclude homosexuals who meet the BSA's and the chartered organisation's standards.

All other leader requirement, including "duty to God" would remain in effect for all chartered organisations, the memo added.

The organisation noted that some groups have expressed concern that should they exclude homosexuals after the change in policy, they will be open to lawsuits but it allayed these fears.

The memo acknowledged that it cannot eliminate the risk of a homosexual activist filing a lawsuit seeking admission to a religious chartered scouting unit.

"We live in a litigious society, and frivolous lawsuits are threatened and filed every day. However, any lawsuit challenging the religious requirements in a scouting unit chartered by a religious organisation would be unlikely to succeed or even make much progress," it said.

Membership in the Boy Scouts of America has been steadily declining over the past decade but the 2013 decision to allow gay youth contributed to a steeper drop of 7.4% from 2013 to 2014, according to the organisation's figures, Reuters reported.