According to ThinkProgress, approximately 61 percent of delegates to the Boy Scouts of America’s National Annual Meeting voted Thursday to partially end a policy barring openly gay boy scouts.
The 1,400 delegates were not given the option, however, to lift the prohibition of openly gay adult volunteers and leaders.
“Today’s vote is a significant victory for gay youth across the nation and a clear indication that the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adult leaders will also inevitably end,” Rich Ferraro, a spokesperson for LGBT media watchdog group GLAAD said in a statement after the vote. “The Boy Scouts of America heard from religious leaders, corporate sponsors and so many Scouting families who want an end to discrimination against gay people, and GLAAD will continue this work with those committed to equality in Scouting until gay parents and adults are able to participate.”
The vote comes after months of lobbying on both sides of the issue, with gay advocates pressuring the organization to remove all barriers to involvement for LGBT people — including Eagle Scouts, den mothers and scout masters — while conservative forces have pushed the organization to remain with the current policy.
On Thursday, Washington D.C.-based Family Research Council took out a half-page ad in the Dallas Morning News urging delegates to the 2013 National Annual Meeting to vote against the plan.
“Boy Scouts of America delegates will vote TODAY on a resolution that will introduce open homosexuality into Scouting’s ranks and eventually, in all likelihood, into Scouting leadership,” the ad reads. “This open letter calls on ALL DELEGATES to VOTE NO on the resolution and thereby preserve Scouting’s timeless values and honor 103 years of faithful service to our nation and her boys.”
The FRC ad goes on to list five reasons the organization believes that the ban on gays in scouting should be kept, including speculation that 400,000 members will abandon the scouts, citing “massive membership losses” after the organization’s Canadian counterpart lifted their own prohibition to gay scouts.
Despite the opposition’s virulent protests, prior to the vote, many LGBT advocates were optimistic about the vote’s outcome.
“I’m confident, especially now that the BSA leadership is behind the resolution,” Ferraro told the Blade earlier on Thursday. “I think it’s because of the stories that BSA voting members and Americans have heard over the past years from moms from Ohio and teenagers from California who shouldn’t be discriminated against.”
The Dallas Voice, earlier Thursday, released a video of a press conference held by LGBT advocates prior to the vote.
Earlier this month, Texas Governor Rick Perry also weighed in on the Boy Scouts controversy, as the Blade reported.
“The fact is, this is a private organization,” Perry said. “Their values and principles have worked for a century now, and for pop culture to come in and try to tear that up because it just happens to be the flavor of the month, so to speak, and to tear apart one of the great organizations that have served millions of young men — to help them become men and become great fathers — that is just not appropriate.”
Following the affirmative vote, many advocates expressed measured relief that efforts had been partially victorious.
“Today’s vote ending discrimination of gay Scouts is truly a historic moment and demonstrates the Boy Scouts of America’s commitment to creating a more inclusive organization,” Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout and Founder of Scouts for Equality, said in a statement released by GLAAD. “Scouts for Equality is honored to be a part of the movement that has achieved a tremendous victory towards the fight for equality in America and we are proud to call ourselves Scouts. We look forward to the day where we can celebrate inclusion of all members and are committed to continuing our work until that occurs.”
Others who had experienced discrimination in the scouts under this policy spoke out after the vote as well.
“When I was kicked out of the Boy Scouts last April, I was devastated.” said Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, who was ousted as leader of her son’s Cub Scout pack because she’s gay. “Having to look my son, Cruz, in the eye and tell him that our family isn’t good enough was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Today is truly a watershed moment for me, but even more so for the millions of kids across this country, who will now be allowed to serve in the Scouts without fear of rejection. I’m so proud of how far we’ve come, but until there’s a place for everyone in Scouting, my work will continue.”