The president of the Boy Scouts of America on Thursday called for an end to the group’s ban on gay troop leaders.
Robert Gates, a former secretary of Defense, told a meeting of the organization’s leadership in Atlanta that “we cannot ignore the social, political and judicial changes taking place in our country.”
Gates said he would not ask the board to vote today to drop the ban but said the board must consider the proposal. Even if the board votes to end the ban, Gates said sponsors for each of the 100,000 troops nationwide could set their own rules for their troop’s leadership.
“Such a rule would allow all churches, which sponsor some 70% of our scout units, to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith,” he said.
“I must speak as plainly and bluntly to you as I spoke to presidents when I was director of the CIA and secretary of Defense,” he said. “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.”
Part of Gates’ problem is that gay Scouts are growing up. The organization voted two years ago to allow openly gay Scouts. Last month, the Greater New York Councils said it was hiring the first openly gay Eagle Scout, Pascal Tessier, 18, to work as a camp leader this summer.