By Chris Hoenig
The measure was approved by 61 percent of the roughly 1,400 voting members of the BSA's National Council at its meeting Thursday in Grapevine, Texas. The policy change, which takes effect on Jan. 1, prevents the BSA from denying membership to a potential scout based solely on his sexual orientation. The watered-down proposal was introduced in April.
The debate over the Boy Scouts' membership policy is likely far from over. The council did not vote on— and currently has no plans to review—a centuries-old ban on openly gay scout leaders, which could pose a conundrum for the organization as scouts who are now accepted as openly gay graduate and look to become scout leaders themselves.
More than 70 percent of the 100,000-plus chartered Boy Scouts units are owned and operated by faith-based organizations, including large memberships among the traditionally conservative Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. While these and other groups have protested the changes, there has been tremendous support elsewhere for the policy shift: President Obama pushed the BSA to drop the ban in February, while corporations including Intel, UPS and Merck & Co. (No. 12 in the DiversityInc Top 50) threatened to withhold funding to troops that continued with the ban.
"No matter how you feel about this issue, kids are better off in Scouting. Our vision is to serve every kid. We want every kid to have a place where they belong, to learn and grow and feel protected," BSA President Wayne Perry told reporters at a post-vote press conference.
AT&T (No. 13) is one of the major sponsors of the BSA, which counts AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson and Ernst & Young (No. 4) Chairman and CEO Jim Turley among its board members. Both have been vocal supporters of ending the ban.