Boy Scouts of America's National Council votes to ease ban on openly gay scouts

File - In this Feb. 4, 2013 file photo James Oliver, left, hugs his brother and fellow Eagle Scout, Will Oliver, who is gay, as Will and other supporters carry four boxes filled with a petition in front of the Boy Scouts of America headquarters, in Dallas, Texas. For the next 14 weeks, the Boy Scouts of America will be the focus of prayers, petitions and pressure tactics aimed at swaying a planned vote by 1,400 Scout leaders on whether to ease the policy banning gays from membership. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

May 24, 2013 3:26:27 AM PDT
More than 60 percent of the Scout leaders who voted at their annual meeting Thursday supported the policy reversal. Openly gay boys will be accepted as Boy Scouts, but gay adults will remain barred from serving as scout leaders.

The 103-year-old ban has been overturned. It's a historic move that means big changes to one of the oldest youth organizations in this country.

While critics and supporters rallied outside, an historic vote was being cast inside.

The Boy Scouts of America's national council meeting in Texas lifts a ban on openly gay scouts.

Organizations for equality say this is a huge victory.

"We're very pleased that the BSA is finally parading in the right direction, [but there's a] long way to go to complete their task on this," said Mitchell Locin, Equality Illinois.

In a statement Thursday, the Boy Scouts of America said: "While people have different opinions about this policy we can all agree that kids are better off when they are scouting."

Former scout and merit badge counselor Art Ellingsen is also the son of a former Boy Scout president, has a former scout son and scout grandkids. Scouting runs in his family.

To Ellingsen, the lift on the ban goes against the Scouts' mission:

"Where do you think the word 'straight' came from in this society, when we say somebody's gay and somebody's straight? It came from the Scout oath that said straight," Ellingsen said.

Ellingsen said most scout units are sponsored by churches, and many of those churches may decide to stop sponsoring scout units.

"Our morals are based on the Judaic-Christian ethic of what is OK behavior," Ellingsen said.

The BSA'S national council says they hope people that disagree can still come together for the kids.

Locin believes this change is just the beginning.

"Those churches and religious organizations that don't want to accept, maybe this is a lesson that America is changing," said Locin.

The policy change will be in effect January 1, 2014.

The ban on gay adult leaders remains.