(USA TODAY) -- The Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday to allow gay youth to
participate in scouting. The historic vote signals another shift in
American public opinion about homosexuality but still leaves the
organization with many future hurdles.
The vote overturns a
22-year-old ban on openly gay scouts. It was based on a line from the
1911 Boy Scouts of America oath: "On my honor I will do my best....to keep
myself physically strong, mentally alert and morally straight." Since
1991 the Scouts have barred openly gay individuals from participating in
Scouting because it was decided that being gay was incompatible with
being "morally straight."
The proposal was voted upon by more than
1,400 voting members of the organization's national council at its
annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas, near the Scouts' national
headquarters in suburban Dallas.
The proposal before delegated
asked whether openly homosexual boys and teens should be allowed to take
part in scouting. The Scouts plan to continue their ban on gay adult
Scout leaders. More than 2,000 Boy Scout leaders and officials are
attending the meeting, which concludes Friday.
Gay Scouts, Scout
leaders and their supporters were ecstatic. They were holding what they
called an Equal Scouting Summit across the street from the meeting. It
was sponsored by two pro-gay Scout groups, Scouts for Equality and the
Inclusive Scouting Network.
Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic
Family and Human Rights Institute in Washington, D.C., said the shift
"would utterly change Scouting and dramatically reduce their ranks. The
Catholic and Mormon groups would simply have to walk away."
not necessarily true, however. In a statement posted on its website in
April, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stated that it
appreciated the "positive things contained in this current proposal [to
allow gay Scouts] that will help build and strengthen the moral
character and leadership skills of youth as we work together in the
About 70% of all Scout troops are run by faith-based
organizations, according to the Boy Scouts of America. About 37% are
Mormon, 10% Methodist and 8% Catholic.
The issue has long been
contentious. In 2000 the Supreme Court ruled that the Scouts could
legally bar homosexuals from being troop leaders. The case centered on a
gay Scout leader in New Jersey, James Dale, who was dismissed in 1990.
similar case involving a gay Scout, Tim Curran, made it to the
California Supreme. Curran a took a male date to his senior prom. The
Mount Diablo Boy Scout Council then barred him from scouting activities
and he sued. The California court ruled for the Scouts in 1998.
Washington Post-ABC News poll released May 9 found that 63% of Americans
support allowing gay Scouts to join and 56% believe openly gay adults
should be allowed to serve as Scout leaders. Public opinion is changing
rapidly. In 2012 a USA Today/Gallup poll found only 42% of Americans
felt openly gay adults should be Scout leaders.
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Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY