The Boy Scouts of America on Wednesday began accepting openly gay youth, a historic policy change that affects the scouting ranks, however the ban on gay scout leaders remains in effect.
At its National Council’s annual meeting last May, the Boy Scouts adopted a resolution “to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone.”
Under the new membership policy, youths can no longer be barred from the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts or coed Venturers program on the basis of sexual orientation. However, gay Scouts will face some limitations.
“Any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting,” says one BSA document. “No member may use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda, including on the matter of sexual orientation.”
Trying to anticipate potential friction, the BSA has distributed extensive explanations and question-and-answer documents related to the policy.
A frequently-asked-questions document anticipates that some objections might surface from parents — or Scouts themselves — in cases where a unit includes an openly gay boy.
Regarding shower and toilet facilities, the BSA says it is encouraging units to provide greater individual privacy, including moving away from the tradition of group showers.
Sleeping arrangements also are addressed, with specific decisions left to unit leaders.
“If a Scout or parent of a Scout makes a request to not tent with another Scout, their wishes should be honored,” says the BSA.
Meanwhile, gay rights supporters have vowed to maintain pressure on the Boy Scouts to end the still-in-place ban on gay and lesbian adults serving as leaders.
Last month, defense and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin halted its corporate donations to the Boy Scouts due to the continued ban on gay scout leaders.