Updated: 5:30 p.m. EDT
The president of the Boy Scouts of America, Robert Gates, said Thursday that the organization’s longstanding ban on participation by openly gay adults is no longer sustainable and called for change in order to prevent “the end of us as a national movement.”
In a speech in Atlanta to the Scouts’ national annual meeting, Gates referred to recent moves by Scout councils in New York City and elsewhere to defy the ban.
“The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained,” he said.
Gates said no change in the policy would be made at the national meeting. But he raised the possibility of revising the policy at some point soon so that local Scout organizations could decide on their own whether to allow gays as adult volunteers and paid staff.
In 2013, after bitter internal debate, the BSA decided to allow openly gay youth as scouts, but not gay adults as leaders. The change took effect in January 2014.
Gates, who became the BSA’s president in May 2014, said at the time that he personally would have favored ending the ban on gay adults, but he opposed any further debate after the Scouts’ policymaking body upheld the ban.
On Thursday, however, he said recent events “have confronted us with urgent challenges I did not foresee and which we cannot ignore.”
He cited the recent defiant announcement by the BSA’s New York City chapter in early April that it had hired the nation’s first openly gay Eagle Scout as a summer camp leader. He also cited broader developments related to gay rights.
Article continues below“I remind you of the recent debates we have seen in places like Indiana and Arkansas over discrimination based on sexual orientation, not to mention the impending U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer on gay marriage,” he said. “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be.”
Gates said the BSA technically had the power to revoke the charters of councils that defied the ban on gay adults, but said this would be harmful to boys in those regions
He also noted that many states have passed laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, raising the possibility of extensive legal battles.