Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scout Casey Chambers carries a rainbow flag during the San Francisco Gay Pride Festival in California June 29, 2014. REUTERS/Noah Berger

The Boy Scouts of America voted to lift the ban on openly gay troop leaders and employees. According to the Washington Post, the organisation will no longer allow discrimination against paid employees or at BSA-own facilities. Religious institution-funded troops, however, it will still be able to ban gay adult leaders on a local level.

Zach Wahls, the Executive Director of Scouts for Equality, praised the change in a statement released after the vote was announced.

"This vote marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Boy Scouts of America. Tens of thousands of people came together because they wanted to build a better future for the Boy Scouts of America, and that future starts now. I couldn't be more proud of the tireless work of our members, volunteers, and staff over these last three years," Wahls said. "As of this vote, the Boy Scouts of America is an organisation that is looking forward, not back."

The group's National Executive Board approved the resolution on 27 July that ends the group's ban on gay leaders.

The Christian Science Monitor reported the membership policy change would no longer ban the participation of gay adults. However, it would permit local units to make their own decision regarding gay leaders.

The 105-year-old organisation released a statement earlier this month saying a policy banning gay adult leaders was "no longer legally defensible". On 13 July, the organisation's 17-member executive committee voted unanimously to approve the new resolution.

The statement noted: "However, the BSA's commitment to duty to God and the rights of religious chartered organisations to select their leaders is unwavering."

Boy Scouts's president, and former US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates called the ban on gay leaders "unsustainable" and called for a change, Reuters reported.

The Texas-based organisation dropped its ban on gay youth members in 2013, but continued to prohibit membership to openly gay adults. According to Reuters, the Boy Scouts of America has 2.5 million youth members between 7 and 21 years old and around 960,000 local unit volunteers.

While the end to the ban is lauded by gay rights advocates, conservatives are criticising the move.

John Stemberger, chairman of the breakaway Christian youth outdoors programme Trail Life USA, told Reuters that lifting the ban was an affront to Christian morals that would make it "even more challenging for a church to integrate a unit as part of a church's ministry offerings."

Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, however argued that allowing religious organisations to continue to prohibit gay adult leaders allows those groups to continue discriminating.

"[D]iscriminatory exemptions have no place in the Boy Scouts," Griffin said to the WSJ. "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."