BSA amends adult leadership standards; here’s what the change means for your Scout unit

Today, the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board ratified a resolution that removes the national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees. The change is effective immediately.

Of those present and voting, 79 percent voted in favor of the resolution.

Today’s decision allows openly gay adult leaders to serve in Scouting while preserving the right of religious chartered organizations to continue to select adult leaders in line with their religion’s beliefs on sexual orientation.

In other words, the longstanding ability of chartered organizations to select their adult leaders remains in place.

Scouting families — both current and future — can select units chartered to organizations that match their beliefs and that best meet the needs of their families.

“For far too long this issue has divided and distracted us,” BSA President Dr. Robert M. Gates said in a statement released after the vote. “Now it’s time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of Scouting to be a force for good in our community and in the lives of its youth members.”

You’re probably wondering how today’s vote will affect your family, your Scout unit and your local council. You might want to know what’s changing and what isn’t. You’ll find those answers below.

What is changing?

  • Today’s vote removes the national and local council restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees, effective immediately.

What’s not changing?

  • The values of “duty to God” and “a Scout is reverent” found in the Scout Oath and Scout Law remain central to Scouting.
  • Chartered organizations will continue to select their adult leaders. Only religious chartered organizations may continue to use religious beliefs as criteria for selecting adult leaders, including in matters of sexuality. The BSA will defend religious chartered organizations that select their leaders based on good-faith religious beliefs.
  • Scouting’s members and parents select units that are chartered to organizations with beliefs consistent with their own.
  • The youth membership policy, adopted in 2013 and stating that no youth may be denied membership in the BSA based on sexual orientation, remains unchanged.
  • Everyone who is a registered member of the BSA agrees to follow national policies and comply with the BSA’s behavioral standards.

How everyone is affected

You can read above how youth members, adult volunteers and chartered organizations are affected by the policy.

Everyone in the Scouting family should remember that Scouting isn’t the place to discuss sexual conduct. While there is no national or local council restriction on openly gay adults serving as leaders or employees, everyone agrees to follow national policies and comply with the BSA’s behavioral standards.

BSA employees may not be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation, and the BSA will continue to follow all local, state and federal employment laws. For all staff positions that require BSA membership, the BSA will consider all qualified and eligible persons for hire without regard to their sexual orientation.

How we got to here

At the BSA’s National Annual Meeting in May, Dr. Gates asked the Scouting family to reflect on the challenges facing Scouting, specifically regarding our adult leadership standards.

In his remarks, which you can watch or read on Scouting Newsroom, the BSA’s top volunteer leader challenged the BSA to act — “sooner rather than later.”

He said we must “seize control of our own future, set our own course and change our policy in order to allow chartered partners — unit-sponsoring organizations — to determine the standards for their Scout leaders.”

This approach, Dr. Gates said, “would allow all churches, which sponsor some 70 percent of our Scout units, to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith. We must, at all costs, preserve the religious freedom of our church partners to do this.”

Moreover, Dr. Gates said, we cannot “ignore the social, political and juridical changes taking place in our country — changes taking place at a pace over this past year no one anticipated.”

The BSA’s National Executive Committee crafted a resolution and adopted it earlier this month. That prompted today’s ratifying vote by the volunteer members of the National Executive Board.

The 71-member National Executive Board, led by Dr. Gates, is the governing body of the National Council. The board is composed of elected members, regional presidents and appointed youth members.

Under the BSA’s national bylaws, decisions like the one made today are the responsibility of the Executive Committee and National Executive Board.

Where we go from here

Basically, your unit can continue business as usual. If your Scout unit belongs to a religious chartered organization, that chartered organization may continue to select leaders in line with its religious beliefs.

As for questions about subjects like sleeping arrangements or public displays of affection or the like, the BSA continues to be guided by strict behavioral standards. As has always been the case, sexual issues should never be discussed in a Scouting context. Leaders who violate these rules may be removed from Scouting.

Most important, the life-changing experiences you, the volunteer leader, help deliver to youth every day will continue. Those innumerable incredible moments Scouts and Venturers only find in Scouting aren’t going anywhere.

The BSA has 2.4 million youth members and nearly 1 million adult volunteers. Some variances in our beliefs are to be expected. In fact, Scouting teaches its youth members and adult leaders to be tolerant and respectful of different religious and moral beliefs, acknowledging that reasonable minds may differ.

So let’s focus on what unites us. We’re all here for the same reason: reaching and serving youth and helping them grow into phenomenal adults. That shared mission helps us accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve.

How to contact the BSA

If you’re a member of the Scouting community with questions or comments, please email

Where to read and see more

Read Dr. Gates’ remarks here.

Scouting Newsroom has more coverage of today’s vote.

About Bryan Wendell 3281 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.