The Boy Scouts of America organization is about to get a lot more inclusive. It’s expected that the scouting organization responsible for many an adolescent camping trip will announce an end to its ban on gay den leaders, scoutmasters and camp counselors on Monday, The New York Times reports.
The new policy will also ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in Boy Scouts of America offices.
The group has allowed gay youth to become Scouts since 2013, but openly gay adults were not permitted to hold leadership positions. Many troops are affiliated with religious organizations, like Mormons and the Catholic Church, whose beliefs don’t allow for the inclusion of homosexuals.
Troops related to those organizations will still be allowed to decide who to put in leadership positions, but groups more accepting of homosexuality will no longer be restricted.
As Michael Harisson, an Orange County, Calif. troop leader, told the Times, “There are differences of opinion, and we need to be respectful of them. It doesn’t mean the Mormons have to pick a gay scoutmaster, but please don’t tell the Unitarians they can’t.”
The decision to lift the ban, reached two weeks ago, comes on the back of some serious problems for the Boy Scouts. Membership has been declining and the disagreement over the restriction has caused internal debate. The threat of lawsuits and the potential violation of employment discrimination laws also prompted the change.
A Supreme Court decision in 2000 to allow the Boy Scouts to force an openly gay assistant scoutmaster out of his position caused some schools and businesses to cut ties with the Scouts as well. And in 2000, the Boy Scouts still held an official policy stating that “homosexuality is immoral and unclean.”
Many are calling the change an incomplete victory since the decision to exclude gay adults still rests in the hands of individual troops. But it’s a huge step towards equality in the traditionally conservative organization.