The measure passed with the support of 68 percent of the 1,400 delegates at the BSA national conference in Grapevine, Texas. It will affect BSA’s 2.7 million Scouts and 1 million volunteers beginning in January 2014.
The move changes the organization’s current policy, in which no one is asked about his sexual orientation but “open or avowed homosexuals” cannot be members, leaders, volunteers, or employees. The policy – instituted in 1978 and reaffirmed in 2002 – was upheld by a 2000 US Supreme Court ruling (BSA v. Dale).
Thusday's meeting, which featured an open mike for delegates, was extremely charged and 3 of every 4 speakers were for expanding the policy on gays, says Alan Snyder, chairman of the board for the Western Los Angeles County Boy Scout Council, who was at the event.
He says two testimonies, in particular, made big impressions.
In one, some very shy boys took the mike, trembling, and said, “We are the youngest people in the room, and we want to remind you that the BSA is for kids,” Mr. Snyder recounts. In another, an older man said, according to Snyder, “If I am Jewish, which I am, do I worry that a Catholic boy is going to try to convert my son to Catholicism? Of course not.”
Thursday’s vote was originally scheduled for February, but BSA leadership decided the organization needed more time to think about the issue.