Boy Scouts Pres. Says Gay Leader Ban Should End
Lifestyle| | By Ryan Miller
After Boy Scouts of America (BSA) lifted a ban to allow gay youth to join in 2013, the current sitting president of the group is calling for the organization to lift the ban on allowing gay individuals to be scout leaders. “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained,” said Robert Gates, former U.S. secretary of defense and current BSA president, at the Boy Scouts’ national meeting in Atlanta. While serving as secretary of defense, Gates ushered in the end of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the rule that barred openly gay people from serving in the military.
Over recent years, regional Boy Scouts’ councils have invoked charters that allow gay leaders. Gates said he would not challenge those charters as the “potential” for discrimination lawsuits has increased in recent years. “Dozens of states – from New York to Utah – are passing laws that protect employment rights on the basis of sexual orientation,” said Gates. “Thus, between internal challenges and potential legal conflicts, the Boy Scouts of America finds itself in an unsustainable position.” For now, Gates seems content to allow individual groups to decide the matter for themselves. Supporters of the changes applauded Gates’ speech.
“We are 180 degrees from where we were a year ago,” said Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality. “This is a very, very positive development.” Recently, major sponsors have begun to distance themselves from the group because of the gay ban, including Lockheed Martin, Intel, and the Disney Corporation. The companies consider the gay ban discriminatory. Since the gay youth ban was lifted, BSA saw a drop in enrollment in 2014, from 7.4% the year prior to 6%, though there is no evidence that drop was a direct result of the ban.