Boy Scouts Vote To Allow Gay Members, But Not Leaders

Members of the Boy Scouts of America voted on Thursday to allow gay members.

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The Boy Scouts ban on openly gay scouts is coming to an end. That's the result of a vote held today by the leadership of the Boys Scouts of America.

WAYNE PERRY: Our vision is to serve every kid. We want every kid to have a place where they belong, to learn and grow and feel protected.

BLOCK: Today's historic vote is being celebrated by gay rights advocates as a hard-fought victory and criticized by opponents as a moral capitulation. NPR's Kathy Lohr is in Grapevine, Texas, where the vote took place, and she joins us now. And Kathy, 1,400 members of Boy Scouts leadership council have voted and in the end it wasn't even close.

KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: That's right. It wasn't close. The result was 61 percent in favor of dropping the ban to 39 percent. So both sides had thought it would be much closer. As it turned out, it was kind of a landslide.

BLOCK: Well, it's been a very contentious issue for people inside and outside the Boy Scouts. Why don't you tell us about reaction you've heard so far from groups who were opposed to lifting the ban on openly gay scouts?

LOHR: Yeah, the reaction, you know, has been coming in pretty fast. And the groups who were opposed say of course this is very disappointing. They're very saddened. They feel that this is a huge mistake for the Boy Scouts of America. And a group called OnMyHonor.Net, a fairly new group was started by a man named John Stemberger and he is an eagle scout. And he spoke today. Here's what he said.

JOHN STEMBERGER: We recognize that on this day, the most influential youth program in America has turned a very tragic corner. The vote today to allow open and avowed homosexuality in the Boy Scouts will completely transform it into an unprincipled and risky proposition for parents.

LOHR: And, you know, he said that he is going to be actually leaving the Boy Scouts. This would be the last time, today, that he would be wearing the uniform.

BLOCK: OK. Well, that's some of the reaction from opponents. Groups who wanted the ban lifted are thrilled with the vote, but I gather they wanted more.

LOHR: They did. This is a first step, and that's what they've been saying all along. But at this point, youths who are openly gay are going to be allowed into the Boy Scouts, but the ban was not dropped for adults who are openly gay. So, I think the movement is going to be to not have the adults who are openly gay be kicked out of scouting if they say they are gay.

BLOCK: You're talking about adults who are scout leaders who are openly gay.

LOHR: Right. And that is because at age 18, people in the Boy Scouts would transition into adult positions and to associate-leader type positions, but right now they're not allowed to do that if they say they are gay. And many have been kicked out for that reason.

BLOCK: So Kathy, when will the Boy Scouts officially begin allowing openly gay scouts to join now that they have voted to do so?

LOHR: Well, the group says that the official time period for this is actually January 1, but they have put together a task force to study how they're going to be implementing this. This is going across 2.6 million youth that are in the Boy Scouts today and many, many hundreds of chapters. So it's going to be a job to see how this is going to be implemented.

BLOCK: OK. Kathy, thanks so much.

LOHR: My pleasure.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Kathy Lohr in Grapevine, Texas, where the Boy Scouts have voted to end the organization's ban on openly gay youth. As we said, openly gay adults will still be prohibited from scout leadership roles.

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