Delegates to the annual meeting of the Boy Scouts of America voted to allow openly gay youths to join the organization Thursday (May 23), CNN reports.
The vote follows months of debate both within the Boy Scouts and among outside interest groups. Previously, the Boy Scouts came under fire for banning openly gay scout leaders, a policy still in place. A recent poll indicated that 63 percent of Americans said they would support allowing gay youths to join the Boy Scouts.
Among those in support include celebs like Carly Rae Jepsen and Madonna, who have called out the organization in the past. Jepsen, along with the band Train, pulled out of performances at the National Scout Jamboree in March. She told MTV News of the scouts’ policy: “It wasn’t necessarily something that I felt comfortable backing once I learned more about it,” she said, adding, “And that being said here’s hoping they make the right decision and I’m praying that moves like this will help.”
Madonna had called on the Scouts to lift their ban on gay members as well, taking a stand by dressing as a boy scout at the GLAAD Awards the same month.
The resolution to allow gay scouts was adopted with more than 60 percent of the vote. It reads, “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” It takes effect January 1, 2014.
The vote took place more than a decade after the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America had the right to keep out gays. However, it also comes at a time when participation in the organization is on the decline. It has reportedly lost about one third of its members since 1999, bringing the BSA’s current enrollment numbers to approximately 2.7 million people nationwide.