Boy Scouts to allow gay youths to join

GRAPEVINE, Tex. — Openly gay youths will be allowed to join scouting, delegates to the annual meeting of the Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday.

The organization’s 1,400-member national council voted for the historic policy change, which will take effect January 1.

The resolution was adopted with more than 60% of the vote.

“No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” says the approved resolution.

The BSA will maintain its ban on gay adult leaders.

“The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting,” the 103-year-old organization said in a statement.

The BSA said there are no plans for further review of the issue.

Representatives for local troops across the Triad said they will honor the decision made Thursday.

“I’ve waited for 13 years for the scouts to make this decision,” said Matt Comer, 27, who was kicked out of a Winston-Salem troop after he publicly spoke out about being gay at the age of 14. “Young people like I once was will no longer have to fear being kicked out simply because they are gay.”

Comer is editor of Qnotes, a gay and lesbian community newspaper based in Charlotte traveled to Texas for the decision Thursday. “It’s a historic decision but it’s not perfect. The new policy will continue to exclude gay youth upon them turning 18 and will continue to exclude gay adults who seek to be leaders in the organization.”

The vote followed months of intense debate among interest groups and within the ranks of scouting itself.

In February, the Boy Scouts’ national executive board postponed a vote on the issue and ordered a survey of its members.

That survey showed an organization divided by age and, in some cases, by region.

While most adults in the Scouting community support the BSA’s current policy of “excluding open and avowed homosexuals, young parents and teens tend to oppose the policy.”

A BSA spokesman called the issue “among the most complex and challenging issues facing the BSA and society today.”

A recent Washington Post-ABC News Poll showed that 63% of Americans said they would support allowing gay youths to join the Boy Scouts.

The vote comes more than a decade after the Supreme Court ruled that the organization has the right to keep out gays but also at a time of declining participation in the American institution.

Membership in Boy Scouts has declined by about a third since 1999. About 2.7 million people now participate nationwide.

“Scouting doesn’t ban gays, – scouting bans gay activism,” said John Stemberger, founder of “On My Honor” a group of scouts and parents opposed to the decision. Stemberger believes the decision is teaching children that when your values become unpopular, change them; when you’re convictions are challenged, just cave.  “We are very upset the leadership, a small group of leaders at the top, are forcing this issue–the ranking file scouts do not want this change.”

“On My Honor” announced Thursday evening it plans to meet next month in Kentucky to discuss breaking away from the Boy Scouts of America and creating a new organization for boys.

CNN’s Katia Hetter and Ed Payne contributed to this report.