ABILENE, Texas - After years of debate, the Boy Scouts of America ended its longstanding policy that did not allow openly gay youths to participate. However, gay leaders and adults are still banned from the organization.
More than 1,400 volunteer leaders across the country voted on this issue. About 60 percent of them voted in favor of a measure that said, no youth can be denied membership "on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."
Boy Scouts of America leaders proposed the change amid opposition from many conservative parents and volunteers.
"Boys engage in high risk behavior. They do crazy things. So clearly, scouting's either going to have to do one of two things. They're either going to have to put homosexual boys with other boys and put them at risk. We wouldn't put boys and girls sleeping together. Why? Because they're attracted to each other," said John Stemberger who is opposed to allowing openly gay youths in the organization.
There were plenty of supporters as well.
Cindi Love, a local gay activist, said she is happy about the outcome of Thursday's decision.
"I'm really pleased. I have a lot of friends that are boy scouts and my son was a boy scout. I was a cub scout leader and I believe that scouts is first and foremost about being truthful and truthfulness can't happen without trust and so these two things to me are very important. I believe no one should hide in order to belong," said Love.
Gay rights activists have called this decision a breakthrough, but said they will continue to press the boy scouts to allow gay members of all ages.
The new policy will go into effect January 2014.
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