Boy Scouts president says ban on gay leaders needs to end

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Boy Scouts' President: Gay-Leader Ban 'Cannot Be Sustained'
Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates said on Thursday the group's ban on adult gay leaders needs to end, taking a step toward dismantling a policy that has caused deep rifts in the 105-year-old organization.

Gates said at a national meeting of the group in Atlanta he does not plan to revoke the charters of Boy Scout councils that allow gay leaders, according to a text of the speech, which could significantly weaken enforcement of the ban.

"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," said Gates, who as U.S. secretary of defense helped end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that barred openly gay individuals from serving in the military.

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Boy Scouts president says ban on gay leaders needs to end
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates addresses the Boy Scouts of America's annual meeting on Friday, May 23, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn., after being selected as the organization's new president. Gates is taking over one of the nation's largest youth organizations as it fights a membership decline and debates its policy toward gays. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates addresses the Boy Scouts of America's annual meeting on Friday, May 23, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn., after being selected as the organization's new president. Gates is taking over one of the nation's largest youth organizations as it fights a membership decline and debates its policy toward gays. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
File- In this Dec. 6, 2011 file photo former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaks during a news conference in New York. The Boy Scouts of America confirmed Gates as its new president on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at the organization's annual meeting in Nashville. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
Former President George W. Bush, right, and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, center, are recognized by Boy Scouts of America, Circle Ten Council Board Member Sherwood Blount Jr., left, during the Friends of Scouting Banquet Thursday, March 3, 2011, in Dallas. Bush introduced Gates, an eagle scout, who was the keynote speaker at the event that raised $1 million for the North Texas BSA orgnanization. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates waves after addressing the Boy Scouts of America's annual meeting on Friday, May 23, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn., after being selected as the organization's new president. Gates is taking over one of the nation's largest youth organizations as it fights a membership decline and debates its policy toward gays. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates addresses the Boy Scouts of America's annual meeting on Friday, May 23, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn., after being selected as the organization's new president. Gates is taking over one of the nation's largest youth organizations as it fights a membership decline and debates its policy toward gays. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates presents Mark Stolowitz with the Silver Buffalo Medal during the Boy Scouts of America's annual meeting on Friday, May 23, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. The Sliver Buffalo Award is the highest commendation given to a volunteer in the Boy Scouts of America. Gates was elected as the organization's new president and is taking over one of the nation's largest youth organizations as it fights a membership decline and debates its policy toward gays. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski)
Wearing a neck brace after a fall a few weeks ago former defense secretary Robert Gates answers questions during a media availability before speaking at Texas A&M University Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in College Station, Texas. Gates spoke about his recently released book. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaks after receiving the Liberty Medal during a ceremony at the National Constitution Center Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011 in Philadelphia. Since 1989, the Liberty Medal has been given annually to individuals or organizations whose actions strive to bring liberty to people worldwide. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gets up to leave after his final scheduled media availability at the Pentagon Thursday, June 16, 2011 in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, left, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen speak during a media availability at the Pentagon Thursday, June 16, 2011 in Washington.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testifies regarding the Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2012 budget request before the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Defense on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrives for a round table meeting of NATO defense ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, June 8, 2011. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will use the two-day meeting of defense ministers to demand more allies step up in the fight against Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
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He said he was not asking the Boy Scouts' national board to make any policy change at the current meeting.

"Dozens of states - from New York to Utah - are passing laws that protect employment rights on the basis of sexual orientation," he said. "Thus, between internal challenges and potential legal conflicts, the Boy Scouts of America finds itself in an unsustainable position."

Those pushing for change, applauded Gates' stand.

"We are 180 degrees from where we were a year ago," said Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality. "This is a very, very positive development."

The Irving, Texas-based organization lifted its ban on gay youth in 2013 but continues to prohibit the participation of openly gay adults.

The selection last year of Gates as president of the Boy Scouts was seen as an opportunity to revisit the organization's policy on gay adults.

Gates said he personally would have supported going further toward lifting the Scouts' ban on gays but would not reopen debate during his two-year term.

The ban received its first major challenge in April when the first openly gay adult was hired as a summer camp leader by the Greater New York Council of Boy Scouts.

In Ohio, an assistant scoutmaster was expelled in March for being openly gay, according to local media reports.

"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," Gates also said.

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