As of today, January 1, 2014, the Boy Scouts of America, one of the largest youth organizations in America, will allow gay scouts.
Over the past few years, BSA has lost several of their financial sponsors when they decided to maintain a ban on homosexuals from serving as scout leaders. While this ban is still in place, the decision to allow homosexual scout members into the organization is still a step in the right direction.
Pascal Tessier of Maryland is a 17-year-old high school senior who said he was denied his Eagle Scout Award in the past because he is gay. This new policy will change that denial and Tessier will receive the honor on January 15. According to Yahoo News, he will be the first openly gay scout to earn the highest rank in scouting.
“I love scouting and always have, so I really want to become an Eagle Scout,” Tessier said.
Zach Wahls, co-founder of the Scouts for Equality is happy with the decision, but would still like to see the ban lifted for gay leaders and volunteers.
“We know that change won’t happen overnight, and we’re ready to do the work,” he said. “We see the installment of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates as the BSA’s next president as another reason to be optimistic about the future of Scouting.”
Robert Gates was defense secretary under President Obama before he retired in 2011. He supported the withdrawl of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
But not everyone is excited about the changes in the BSA.
Trail Life USA, a socially conservative Christian scouting organization for boys, is ready to accept those who leave the scouts because of the new policy change. The organization was founded in 2013 specifically because of BSA’s decision to end discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Trail Life USA stands by the idea that “any sexual activity outside the context of the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is sinful before God.”
In other words, Trail Life USA is just like boy scouts, except they do not accept gays.
Boys can join the Cub scouts starting in first grade, or about 7 years old, and can advance through the Boy Scouts until they reach their 18th birthday.
The Boy Scouts have a national membership of about 2.6 million youth and one million adult volunteers.
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