On July 27, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) National Executive Board voted 45 to 12 to end its controversial blanket ban on gay adult leaders. The move comes on the heels of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision made in June that effectively legalizes same-sex marriage in America and statements made in May by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, BSA’s president, questioning the soundness of the ban. 

Gates argued at the time that the ban was out of touch with the shifting national mood on sex and gender relations. He also said the ban made the organization vulnerable to lawsuits.

The resolution that amends BSA’s adult leadership policy was recommended for ratification by the organization’s executive committee in mid-July. In addition to permitting gay adult leaders to serve, those adults who, in the past, were denied leadership positions based on their sexual orientation would be allowed to reapply, and BSA would no longer discriminate against prospective staff employees based on sexual orientation, according to a memo sent to local Boy Scout officials across the country after the committee’s recommendation.

The decision has some Oak Parkers like Cate Reading excited for what the future may hold for the organization but also mobilized for a fight to the finish. Despite lifting the blanket ban on gay adult leaders nationwide, BSA would nonetheless allow local Boy Scout units chartered by religious organizations, such as the Mormon Church to uphold the ban within their units. 

“This vote marks the beginning of a new chapter for Boy Scouts of America,” Reading noted in a statement. Reading, along with Mary Anderson, is co-leader of Oak Park Scouts for Equality, one of the first local branches of a national organization founded to oppose the ban. She’s also the registered leader for Pack 6 at First United Church of Oak Park. 

“While we still have some reservations about individual units sponsored by religious organizations discriminating against gay adults, we couldn’t be more proud of the Boy Scouts for the decision to lift the ban,” she said.

Anderson, who is the lesbian mother of a Cub Scout, said she didn’t think the ban would be lifted this early in her son’s scouting life.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the tireless work of our Oak Park members over these last two years,” she said. “The fact that this ban was lifted so soon shows the power of the work of our members. I didn’t expect this ban to be lifted in my lifetime. The fact that the ban on gay leaders was lifted while my son is still a Cub Scout shows we have the momentum to make the Boy Scouts inclusive of all families.”

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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