Boy Scouts of America to allow openly gay youths to join

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Delegates to the annual meeting of the Boy Scouts of America made a monumental statement Thursday, May 23rd, voting to allow openly gay youths to join scouting.

The organization's 1,400-member national council voted for the policy change, which will take effect January 1st, 2014.

"It's a wonderful, hopeful message for our youth and for all of this country," said Denise Cawley of Milwaukee's LGBT Community Center.

Three Harbors Council, the council representing Southeaster Wisconsin Boy Scouts, was one of the delegations that voted to lift the ban.

Director of Development, Katie Clark said, "I think our vote, like the national vote, reflects the way that Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha feel about the topic."

The inclusion of homosexuals into scouting has a bigger effect, according to Denise Crawley.

"They're taking a great first step. It's saying everyone's welcome here," said Crawley.

The ban on gay scout leaders, however, remains. It was not up for a vote.

Some, like Ronald Brock, don't think this issue should have been either.

"We need to purge it from our society. Our churches first, our society, our government. And organizations like this that are here to, designed to help boys, are instead destroying them," said Brock.

For those who oppose, Clark says the Three Harbors council is willing to listen.

"We will be having a series of meetings with anyone who would like to discuss the issues further to see who we can help serve as many kids as possible," said Clark.

The Boy Scouts of America Statement:

"For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been a part of the fabric of this nation, with a focus on working together to deliver the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.

"Based on growing input from within the Scouting family, the BSA leadership chose to conduct an additional review of the organization's long-standing membership policy and its impact on Scouting's mission. This review created an outpouring of feedback from the Scouting family and the American public, from both those who agree with the current policy and those who support a change.

"Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting's history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America's National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone. 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. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote.

"This policy change is effective Jan. 1, 2014, allowing the Boy Scouts of America the transition time needed to communicate and implement this policy to its approximately 116,000 Scouting units.

"The Boy Scouts of America will not sacrifice its mission, or the youth served by the movement, by allowing the organization to be consumed by a single, divisive, and unresolved societal issue. As the National Executive Committee just completed a lengthy review process, there are no plans for further review on this matter.

"While people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting. Going forward, our Scouting family will continue to focus on reaching and serving youth in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens. America's youth need Scouting, and by focusing on the goals that unite us, we can continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve."

"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.