The president of the Boys Scouts of America on Thursday called for an end “sooner rather than later” to the group's ban on gay Scout leaders to help stem stagnating membership numbers and avoid a court-imposed change.
Boy Scouts President Robert Gates, the former CIA director and former secretary of defense, called for the end of the ban during an annual meeting of the Irving, Texas-based group at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta. He said he wasn't making a formal proposal but that the organizations' governing body should take up the issue soon.
“I assure you that I have no hidden agenda,” Gates said in his prepared remarks. “I want only to apprise you of the new reality I see: that both internal and external events and pressures over the past year and looking to the future will require action at some point.”
“I must speak as plainly and bluntly to you as I spoke to presidents when I was Director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense. We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained,” Gates said. (Watch below beginning at the 8:45 mark.)
In May 2013, the Boy Scouts softened their anti-gay ban and allowed gays in Scout troops but not as Scoutmasters. Anti-gay pastors decried the change and kicked out church-sponsored troops instead of opening their memberships to gay Scouts. And companies, including Disney and Lockheed Martin, withheld cash over the continued ban on gay Scout leaders.
Gates reminded attendees that when he took the job, he opposed re-opening the debate over gay Scout leaders during his two-year tenure.
“I had hope then for a respite during which we could focus on healing our divisions from the 2013 decision, improving our program, strengthening our finances and ending our decline in membership,” Gates said.
But, he said, membership and recruiting challenges – along with some councils in New York and Denver defying the ban on gay Scout leaders – pushed him to reconsider.
“Nor can we ignore the social, political and judicial changes taking place in our country – changes taking place at a pace over this past year no one anticipated. I remind you of the recent debates we have seen in places like Indiana and Arkansas over discrimination based on sexual orientation, not to mention the impending U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer on gay marriage,” Gates said.
Gates said he's not asking for an immediate lifting of the ban, but said it should eventually go. And he added that even after allowing gay Scout leaders, the policy should allow religious groups and churches that sponsor troops to set their own membership criteria.
Gates said the organization could revoke the charters of councils that defy the gay ban, but that “I will not take this path.”
“Between internal challenges and potential legal conflicts, the BSA finds itself in an unsustainable position. A position that makes us vulnerable to the possibility the courts simply will order us at some point to change our membership policy. We must all understand that this probably will happen sooner rather than later,” Gates said.
“Waiting for the courts is a gamble with huge stakes,” he added.
Just don't tell this anti-gay pastor. He's already creepily fixated on horny gay Scouts.