The Boy Scouts of America voted today, May 23, to end their controversial policy banning openly gay scouts from the organization. The new resolution reads, “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” Over 60% of the 1,400 delegates in the National Council’s voted to remove the ban. The change will take effect on January 1, 2014.
The Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition (PSEC) is pleased with the organization’s choice to become more inclusive and open to all boys. Many PSEC leaders are Eagle Scouts, including Kevin McKeon, of Bucks County and the Convener of the PSEC Coordinating Committee. McKeon said of the decision,
“As an Eagle Scout awarded in 2007, I think this is an excellent opportunity for the Boy Scouts to move forward socially and financially.” -Kevin McKeon, Bucks County
He cited the Boy Scouts loss of funding from organizations which did not support their anti-gay policies.
“There have always been gay scouts. This decision affirms the inclusion of gay youth as integral members of the scouting community” said Jason Landau Goodman, the Executive Director of PSEC. He continued, “The implementation of this policy will only serve to secure the safety and dignity of all members, in strengthening the Boy Scouts’ legacy of responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance.”
The Boy Scouts’ policies on gay membership and leaders have been the subject of much debate in Pennsylvania. Earlier this month a lawsuit, dragged through years of litigation, between the city of Philadelphia and the Cradle of Liberty Council of the Boy Scouts of America ended with the Boy Scouts being forced to vacate their city owned headquarters by June 30, because the organization’s policies are in violation of the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. In Central Pennsylvania, a small group of scouts from the New Birth of Freedom Council protested the potential inclusion of gay scouts outside of the council headquarters, in coordination with the national group , On My Honor. Pennsylvania is home to one of the first claimed Boy Scout Troops; Troop Number 1, located in Bala Cynwyd, Montgomery County.
While gay scouts will be allowed in the organization, the ban on LGBT adult volunteers and leaders remains in place. Until this ban on adults is lifted, LGBT parents will not be able to volunteer with their son’s troop. Matt Kridel, a PSEC Coordinating Committee member and student at Gannon University in Erie who became an Eagle Scout in 2005, said, “The decision to accept gay scouts is huge first step, but it’s not the last one. I am looking forward to the Boy Scouts of America accepting all scouts and all leaders into the organization.”
There is question as to what will happen to openly gay members who turn eighteen while enrolled in the organization. There has been speculation that the prospect of kicking these members out when they become adults will lead to a change in policy for adult leaders in years to come. However, there are no plans to change the ban on openly LGBT adults in the near future.
The Keystone Student Voice will follow how this policy is implemented at the 22 local Boy Scout councils that operate in Pennsylvania.