You can now openly try earning the rank of Eagle Scout while being out and proud.

Originally reported by The Associated Press, the Boy Scouts of America voted yesterday to accept gay Scouts into their ranks. Sixty-one percent of the roughly 1,400 voting members of the National Council who cast ballots supported the proposal. Gay Scout leaders are still not accepted under the organization’s rules.

BSA Chief Executive Wayne Brock states, "This has been a challenging chapter in our history. While people have differing opinions on this policy, kids are better off when they're in Scouting," he said after the vote.

Some warn that the choice to accept gay scouts, but not gay scout leaders, is a compromise that could fracture the organization and lead to mass defections of members and donors. Liberal Scout leaders — while supporting the proposal to accept gay youth — have made clear they want the ban on gay adults lifted as well.

Conservatives within the Scouts — including churches that sponsor Scout units — were disappointed by the vote, and wanted to continue excluding gay youths. The conservative congregation Assemblies of God said the policy change "will lead to a mass exodus from the Boy Scout program." It also warned that the change would make the BSA vulnerable to lawsuits seeking to end the ban on gay adults.

Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's’ executive committee, said, "We are deeply saddened. Homosexual behavior is incompatible with the principles enshrined in the Scout oath and Scout law." Of the more than 100,000 Scouting units in the U.S., 70 percent are chartered by religious institutions.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also expressed his dismay, saying, "While I will always cherish my time as a Scout and the life lessons I learned, I am greatly disappointed with this decision."

In contrast, many liberal members of the Scouting community and gay-rights activists are thrilled by the decision, though most of the praise was coupled with calls for ending the ban on gay adults.

Jennifer Tyrrrell, who was thrown out of as a Cub Scout leader in Ohio because she is a lesbian, said, "I'm so proud of how far we've come, but until there's a place for everyone in Scouting, my work will continue."

Pascal Tessier, an openly gay 16-year-old Boy Scout from Maryland, was thrilled with the outcome of yesterday’s vote. "I was thinking that today could be my last day as a Boy Scout. Obviously, for gay Scouts like me, this vote is life-changing."

Source: The Associated Press

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