The Boy Scouts of America will no longer discriminate based on sexual orientation — at least, not technically. The question of allowing gay leaders has plagued the organization for years. In 2013, the BSA announced that gay scouts would be allowed, but not leaders. On Monday, the nonprofit youth organization voted 45-12 to end the ban on homosexual leaders. But looking at the fine print, the Boy Scouts' sexual-orientation-based discrimination isn't quite over.
In a statement on their website on Monday, the BSA announced that, effective immediately, they will "remove the national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees." The key word here? National. The announcement continued:
Chartered organizations will continue to select their adult leaders and religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders, including matters of sexuality. This change allows Scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families. This change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own.
While the national ban is over, chartered groups on local levels can still choose their leaders based on any criteria they want — including sexual orientation.
The Mormon Church — members of which, according to The New York Times, comprise 17 percent of the BSA — is not happy about the change. In a statement, the Church headquarters in Salt Lake city said that, while they allow individual scouts to participate, the same does not apply to leaders:
The admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.
This development did not come out of nowhere. On May 21, BSA president Robert Gates foreshadowed the decision at a meeting, admitting that the ban was not sustainable, and that it could incite lawsuits which he anticipated that they would lose. The BSA committee approved the change two weeks ago, with the National Executive Board approving the policy on Monday.
Even though the national ban doesn't bring total equality to the organization, its still a huge step. In a statement on Monday, Zach Wahls, the executive director of Scouts for Equality — a group dedicated to ending the BSA's discrimination based on sexual orientation — said, “This vote marks the beginning of a new chapter for the Boy Scouts of America." He continued:
While we still have some reservations about individual units discriminating against gay adults, we couldn’t be more excited about the future of Scouting. We look forward to collaborating with our supporters, progressive faith partners, allied non-profit organizations, and the Boy Scouts of America to ensure a fully inclusive Scouting movement.
So discrimination based on sexual orientation can still technically occur, but lifting the national ban is at least one step toward equality.