The Boy Scouts of America voted Monday to lift a long-established ban on gay adults as employees and volunteers within the organization.
The BSA's full executive board voted 45 to 12 in favor of the change, effective immediately. The vote came after the National Executive Committee unanimously approved a resolution earlier this month stating that "no adult applicant for registration as an employee or non-unit-serving volunteer, who otherwise meets the requirements of the Boy Scouts of America, may be denied registration on the basis of sexual orientation."
"For far too long, this issue has divided and distracted us," Gates said in a video released Monday. "Now it's time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of scouting to be a force for good in the community and in the lives of its youth members."
The resolution, which allows previously removed leaders to reapply for their positions, lifts the BSA's across-the-board ban on gay leaders, but allows religiously affiliated troops to determine their own policies regarding LGBT adults, as scout units are chartered by other non-profits to which the BSA licenses its intellectual property.
“Finally, hardworking and devoted gay adult leaders can serve openly and honestly in Scouting without fear of rejection or retribution,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of the advocacy group GLAAD. “Today's historic vote will strengthen Scouting and sends a message of acceptance that will resonate for years to come, as future Scout leaders are judged by their ability to lead and not their sexual orientation.”
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said the vote "is a welcome step toward erasing a stain on this important organization.” He added: "Including an exemption for troops sponsored by religious organizations undermines and diminishes the historic nature of today's decision. Discrimination should have no place in the Boy Scouts, period.”
“There are differences of opinion, and we need to be respectful of them,” Michael Harrison, a businessman who led the Boy Scouts in Orange County, California, who supported the resolution, told The New York Times this week. “It doesn’t mean the Mormons have to pick a gay scoutmaster, but please don’t tell the Unitarians they can’t.”
The Mormon church quickly issued a statement saying that it was "deeply troubled" by the vote and that its "century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined."
"The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation," the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints statement said. "However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America."
Zach Wahls, an Eagle scout and executive director of Scouts for Equality, told The Huffington Post earlier this month that the resolution was imperfect, but a major step.
“It’s better than it was,” Wahls said, adding, “I honestly thought we were in for a 10-year wait.
Watch Gates' remarks on the vote in the video above.