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The national Boy Scouts of America is considering the elimination of its policy prohibiting gay scouts.
“Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” said BSA Spokesperson Deron Smith.
The move comes after over a year of intense public scrutiny by scouting activists – including Zach Wahls and Jennifer Tyrrell. Wahls made headlines and become an icon for the LGBT equality movement after his moving testimony to the Iowa legislature about being the straight son of lesbians. Tyrrell was removed from her post as an Ohio den mother because she was a lesbian.
Both joined with the online organizing group Change.org to create public pressure campaigns encouraging BSA to change its policies. Over one million people have signed onto the Change.org campaigns, the organization reports.
Activists were quick to praise the move.
“This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction,” Wahls told GLAAD for a press release. Wahls is an Eagle Scout and found of Scouts for Equality. “We look forward to working with BSA Councils and chartering organizations across the country to end the exclusion of our gay brothers in Scouting, as well as the gay and lesbian leaders who serve the organizations so well.”
“An end to this ban will restore the dignity of countless families across the country, my included, who simply wanted to take part in all Scouting has to offer,” Tyrrell told GLAAD. “My family loved participating in scouting and I look forward to the day when we might once again be able to take part.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin also praised the announcement.
“The pulse of equality is strong in America, and today it beats a bit faster with news that the Boy Scouts may finally put an end to its long history of discrimination,” he said in a statement. “Our nation and its leaders respect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens and its time the Boy Scouts echo those values.”
The BSA could formally adopt the new policy as early as next week at its next national board meeting.