Robert M. Gates, the BSA president, called to a halt the Scouts' blanket ban on gay adult leaders, warning the group's executives that "we must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be" and that "any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement."
It's the next logical step after the BSA in 2013 voted with more than 60 percent approval that no youth may be denied membership "on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone." But left intact was the much-disputed policy that no openly gay adults could serve in the organization.
This statement by Gates, himself an Eagle Scout, came with backers as well as naysayers. But in a nod to religious organizations that sponsor a majority of local Scout troops, he said they should remain free to set their own guidelines for the leaders they sponsor.
The Mormon church, for example, uses the Boy Scouts as its main organization for boys and is by far the largest sponsor of scout troops, overseeing more than 437,000 youths as of 2013, of a national total of 2.6 million youths participating in the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Explorer Scouts and other programs, according to the New York Times.
In a statement, the church said, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will, of course, examine any such changes very carefully to assess how they might impact our own century-long association with the BSA."
But just as religious groups can oversee who they select as Scout leaders with which they are affiliated, other groups have gone rogue, like a Scout group in New York that defied BSA rules by employing an openly gay 18-year-old as a camp counselor.
Gates said in a statement released by the Boy Scouts that the national leadership would take no action against defiant local councils.
Still, the issue on gay leadership in Scouts in heating up, and though Gates has yet to make a formal proposal to the national board about gay and lesbian leadership, he believes the organization must act soon.
"If we wait for the courts to act," Gates said, "we could end up with a broad ruling that could forbid any kind of membership standard," such as the belief in a duty to God and the goal of specifically serving the needs of boys, the New York Times reports.