Boy Scouts lift blanket ban on gay adult leaders, employees

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Boy Scouts Lifting Ban on Gay Youth Leaders

The Boy Scouts of America lifted its outright ban on openly gay adult leaders and employees on Monday, rolling back a policy that has deeply divided the membership of the 105-year-old Texas-based organization.

The new policy, which takes effect immediately, comes three years after the organization removed its prohibition on gay youth, but local Boy Scout units chartered by religious organizations will still be permitted to exclude gay adults from volunteering as den leaders, scoutmasters or camp counselors.

The latest move was widely seen as being aimed at quelling a backlash against the Boy Scouts amid declining membership and the threat of litigation, while addressing concerns of religious institutions that account for about 70 percent of the 100,000-plus Boy Scout units nationwide.

The rest are chartered to civic groups and educational organizations.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest of all Boy Scout sponsors, said in a statement it was "deeply troubled" by the move and said the Mormons' "century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined."

The resolution implementing the change was backed by 79 percent of the National Executive Board members voting and present on Monday, the Boy Scouts said. The organization's executive committee had unanimously recommended adoption of the new policy on July 13, citing a "sea change in the law with respect to gay rights."

The Boy Scouts' president, former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, called for change in May, saying continuation of the blanket ban on gay Scout leaders was "unsustainable".

See photos of the Boy Scouts opening their ranks to gay youth:

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Boy Scouts of America Open Ranks to Gay Youth, new hire, Pascal Tessier
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Boy Scouts lift blanket ban on gay adult leaders, employees
SAN RAFAEL, CA - JULY 27: Boy Scout merit badge patches are displayed in a store at the Marin Council of the Boy Scouts of America on July 27, 2015 in San Rafael, California. The national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America is poised to vote to end a ban on gay adult leaders. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN RAFAEL, CA - JULY 27: A Boy Scout uniform hangs in a store at the Marin Council of the Boy Scouts of America on July 27, 2015 in San Rafael, California. The national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America is poised to vote to end a ban on gay adult leaders. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN RAFAEL, CA - JULY 27: The Boy Scout logo is displayed in a store at the Marin Council of the Boy Scouts of America on July 27, 2015 in San Rafael, California. The national executive board of the Boy Scouts of America is poised to vote to end a ban on gay adult leaders. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 14: Dave Knapp, Pascal Tessier and Greg Bourke attend the 19th Annual Out100 Awards presented by Buick at Terminal 5 on November 14, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for OUT100 presented by Buick)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 22: Members of Scouts for Equality hold a rally to call for equality and inclusion for gays in the Boy Scouts of America as part of the "Scouts for Equality Day of Action" May 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Boy Scouts of America is scheduled to hold a two day meeting tomorrow with 1,400 local adult leaders to consider changing its policy of barring openly gay teens from participating in the Boy Scouts. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
BETHESDA, MD - APRIL 11: Pascal Tessier, 16, left, protests with others for equality within Boy Scouts of America along Wisconsin Ave. on Thursday April 11, 2013 in Bethesda, MD. Tessier is a scout and is gay. (Photo by Matt McClain/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)
GRAPEVINE, TX - MAY 23: Jennifer Tyrrell (L) of Bridgeport, Ohio, speaks at a news conference as Pascal Tessier, 16, of Kensington, Maryland, wipes his eyes at a news conference held at the Great Wolf Lodge May 23, 2013 in Grapevine, Texas. The Boy Scouts of America today ended its policy of prohibitting openly gay youths from participating in Scout activities, while leaving intact its ban on gay adults and leaders. Jennifer was kicked out of the scouts as a Cub Scout den leader in 2012 for being openly gay. Pascal, who was told by Scout leaders that since he was openly gay, he could not attain the Eagle Scout rank, but was permitted to remain a Scout, will now be able to resume his pursuit of the Eagle Scout rank. (Photo by Stewart House/Getty Images)
GRAPEVINE, TX - MAY 23: Jennifer Tyrrell of Bridgeport, Ohio, hugs Pascal Tessier, 16, of Kensington, Maryland, at a news conference held at the Great Wolf Lodge May 23, 2013 in Grapevine, Texas. The Boy Scouts of America today ended its policy of prohibitting openly gay youths from participating in Scout activities, while leaving intact its ban on gay adults and leaders. Jennifer was kicked out of the scouts as a Cub Scout den leader in 2012 for being openly gay. Pascal was told by Scout leaders that since he was openly gay he could not attain the Eagle Scout rank, but was permitted to remain a Scout. After today's decision, he will be able to resume his pursuit of the Eagle Scout rank. (Photo by Stewart House/Getty Images)
GRAPEVINE, TX - MAY 23: Jennifer Tyrrell of Bridgeport, Ohio, a Cub Scout den leader who was kicked out in 2012 for being openly gay, embraces her son Cruz Burns, 8, before a news conference at the Great Wolf Lodge May 23, 2013 in Grapevine, Texas. The Boy Scouts of America today ended its policy of prohibitting openly gay youths from participating in Scout activities, while leaving intact its ban on gay adults and leaders. (Photo by Stewart House/Getty Images)
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He repeated that assertion on Monday, saying efforts to keep the old policy intact would lead to "simultaneous legal battles in multiple jurisdictions and at staggering cost."

Moreover, a number of major corporate sponsors, such as Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT.N) and Intel Corp. (INTC.O), in recent years dropped their support for the Boy Scouts in protest of policies they considered discriminatory.

Gates stressed the new policy enables religiously chartered Scouting units to "continue to use religious beliefs as a criterion for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality."

However, no adult applying for a job as a paid employee or as a volunteer outside a local unit will be turned away on the basis of sexual orientation, according to the resolution.

The decision follows the landmark ruling in late June by the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing same-sex marriages nationwide.

The Boy Scouts lifted its ban on gay youth in 2013. The selection of Gates as president last year was seen as an opportunity to revisit the policy on adult leaders since he helped end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that barred openly gay people from serving in the U.S. military.

The Boy Scouts of America, whose stated mission is to prepare youth for life and leadership, has 2.5 million members between the ages of 7 and 21 and about 960,000 volunteers in local units, according to the organization's website.

The anticipated end of the Boy Scouts ban has been welcomed by gay rights advocates and criticized by conservatives.

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and executive director of Scouts for Equality, has labeled the ban a "towering example of explicit, institutional homophobia."

"While we still have some reservations about individual units discriminating against gay adults, we couldn't be more excited about the future of Scouting," he said on Monday. He called on those who left Scouting because of its previous policies to "rejoin the fold."

John Stemberger, chairman of the Christian youth outdoor program Trail Life USA, said on Friday that lifting the ban would be an affront to Christian morals and will make it "even more challenging for a church to integrate a (Boy Scouts) unit as part of a church's ministry offerings."

(Reporting by Marice Richter in Dallas; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Ken Wills)

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