The president of the Boy Scouts of America on Thursday acknowledged his organization’s ban on openly gay scout leaders who are older than 18 “cannot be sustained.”
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the comment during the organization’s annual meeting in Atlanta.
Gates — who is also the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency — said he will not ask the Boy Scouts of America National Board “to change our current policy at this meeting.”
“But I must speak as plainly and bluntly to you as I spoke to presidents when I was director of CIA and Secretary of Defense,” he said. “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 in his remarks the organization can expect more local councils “to openly challenge the current policy.”
He acknowledged lawmakers in states across the country are passing measures that seek to extend employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Gates also referenced the controversial religious freedom measures that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed, and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed earlier this year.
Gates noted the U.S. Supreme Court next month will issue its ruling in four cases in which gays and lesbians are seeking marriage rights.
“We are increasingly at odds with the legal landscape at both the state and federal levels,” said Gates. “As a movement, we find ourselves with a policy more than a few of our church sponsors reject — thus placing scouting between a boy and his church.”
The Boy Scouts of America in 2013 began admitting openly gay scouts, but its ban on out scout leaders who are older than 18 remains in place. The Greater New York Councils of the Boy Scouts of America last month announced it had hired Pascal Tessier, 18, of Chevy Chase, Md., as a summer camp leader.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office in April announced it had opened an investigation into whether the organization’s employment practices discriminate against gays.