The Boy Scouts of America announced January 28 that they are considering lifting their long standing ban on gay scouts and adult leaders. A proposed new policy would allow individual councils and troops to set their own guidelines for their leaders and members. Spokespeople for the BSA claim that these new guidelines would allow charter organizations, such as churches, to choose their own position, and let parents find a troop which suits their child’s needs. The final decision is to be made next week.
The BSA is one of the longest running youth organizations in the United States. One of the first Boy Scouts troops was established in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. There are seventeen Boy Scout Councils in Pennsylvania.
The BSA has not allowed gay members since 1978. As recently as July of 2012, the BSA reaffirmed the ban after a two year study conducted by the organization. The announcement led to widespread public criticism, the loss of major corporate donors, and a petition of over a million signatures to reverse the policy. Many Eagle Scouts turned in their medals in protest of the upheld ban.
The Boy Scouts sister organization, The Girl Scouts of America, does not share the BSA’s views on LGBTQ membership. The Girl Scouts’ policy forbids exclusion due to sexual orientation, and allows all children identifying as girls, regardless of biological gender, to join the organization.
The newly proposed policy by the BSA will not bring about organization-wide inclusion, however, if it is passed, it will be the first LGBTQ-friendly policy from the organization since their founding in 1910.