Boy Scouts President: Continued ban on gay leaders "cannot be sustained"

It was announced today that Robert Gates, the president of the Boy Scouts of America, has urged, in the interest of preserving the BSA's autonomy and longevity,
for a revision of the organization's ban on gay adults serving in leadership roles.

At today's National Annual Business Meeting Remarks, Gates said, as part of his detailed 20 page speech on the state of the BSA (comments about membership policy begin on page 12):

I told you a year ago that I would oppose reopening this issue during my two-year term as President of the BSA. I had hoped then for a respite during which we could focus on healing our divisions from the 2013 decision, improving our program, strengthening our finances and ending our decline in membership.

However, events during the past year have confronted us with urgent challenges I did not foresee and which we cannot ignore. We cannot ignore growing internal challenges to our current membership policy, from some councils – like the Greater New York Council, the Denver Area Council, and others – in open defiance of the policy, to more and more councils taking a position in their mission statements and public documents contrary to national policy.

Nor can we ignore the social, political and juridical changes taking place in our country – changes taking place at a pace over this past year no one anticipated. 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.

I am not asking for the national board for any action to change our current policy at this meeting. But I must speak as plainly and bluntly to you as I spoke to presidents when I was Director of CIA and Secretary of Defense. We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained.

We can expect more councils to openly challenge the current policy. While technically we have the authority to revoke their charters, such an action would deny the lifelong benefits of scouting to hundreds of thousands of boys and young men today and vastly more in the future. I will not take that path.

Moreover, dozens of states – from New York to Utah – are passing laws that protect employment rights on the basis of sexual orientation. Thus, between internal challenges and potential legal conflicts, the BSA finds itself in an unsustainable position. A position that makes us vulnerable to the possibility the courts simply will order us at some point to change our membership policy. We must all understand that this probably will happen sooner rather than later…

…We can move at some future date—but sooner rather than later—to seize control of our own future, set our own course and change our policy in order to allow charter partners—unit sponsoring organizations—to determine the standards for their scout leaders…We must, at all costs, preserve the religious freedom of our church partners to do this…

The country is changing and we are increasingly at odds with the legal landscape at both the state and federal levels…The one thing we cannot do is put our heads in the sand and pretend this challenge will go away or abate. Quite the opposite is happening.

Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President  & CEO, responded to the news in a statement: "We are pleased that Roberts Gates has acknowledged what has always been true -  this discriminatory ban needs to be dropped. There is much more left to be done until full equality prevails in Scouting, but recognizing how out of step the ban is with basic fairness is a good first step."

GLAAD first started calls for the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders in April 2012 after Jennifer Tyrrell, a mom and den leader from Ohio was removed from her 7-year-old's Cub Scout pack for being gay. Tyrrell's petition attracted more than 350,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts' ban on gay Scouts and adult leaders. More than two million people have joined petition campaigns since Tyrrell launched her first petition. Visit to learn how to help GLAAD end the ban on gay parents in the Boy Scouts.