SALT LAKE CITY -- The Boy Scouts of America has made a major shift in its stance on gay rights.
The organization’s executive committee voted unanimously Friday to drop its ban on openly gay leaders, something BSA president Robert Gates recently stated was crucial to its future.
An announcement on the BSA website said, “This resolution will allow chartered organizations to select adult leaders without regard to sexual orientation, continuing Scouting’s longstanding policy of chartered organizations selecting their leaders.”
However, the change comes with a caveat. It allows religious chartered organizations to continue to select scout leaders “whose beliefs are consistent with their own.”
Faith-based groups, such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sponsor a majority of scouting troops across the country. As a result, some are skeptical the change will have much impact in Utah.
“In many parts of the nation it will become a non-issue. Here in Utah the question is, what will the local council allow, which is essentially what will the LDS church allow?” said Peter Brownstein, a former scout master in Salt Lake City.
Brownstein and his troop marched in the annual Utah Pride Parade in 2013. The group was sponsored by the United Jewish Federation of Utah, which ultimately chose to suspend the troop for their participation.
In a statement in response to the decision from BSA, the LDS Church indicated it plans to exercise its right to choose its troop leaders.
“As a chartering organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has always had the right to select Scout leaders who adhere to moral and religious principles that are consistent with our doctrines and beliefs. Any resolution adopted by the Boy Scouts of America regarding leadership in Scouting must continue to affirm that right,” said spokesman Dale Jones.
However, the development is still promising to many in the LGBTQ community.
“We think it’s very exciting,” said Sarah Luks-Morgan, spokeswoman for the Utah Pride Center.
The center submitted an application for a scout troop charter in 2013, but was denied by BSA. Given the recent change, they’re optimistic about the future.
“We absolutely are hopeful that there can be a Utah Pride Center troop,” said Luks-Morgan. “And if it can be a Utah Pride Center LDS troop, that’s wonderful, too.”
The change still needs to be approved by the national executive body of BSA. A vote is scheduled for July 27.