In a monumental decision on Thursday, the Boy Scouts of America voted to end the organization’s controversial policy of banning gay members – a move that ultimately puts to rest a multi-year debate between opposing sides.
Boy Scouts of America reported over 60 percent of the organization's 1,400 delegates had voted to lift the ban.
"Today, following this review, the most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting's history the approximate 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America's National Council approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone," the BSA said in a statement following the vote.
"The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting. A change to the current membership policy for adult leaders was not under consideration; thus, the policy for adults remains in place. The BSA thanks all the national voting members who participated in this process and vote."
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Thursday’s vote overturned a 22-year ban restricting openly gay scouts. Anti-gay groups had commonly referenced a line from the 1911 Boy Scouts of America’s oath that referenced “morally straight” values – an excerpt many believed didn’t align with homosexual values.
"On my honor I will do my best….to keep myself physically strong, mentally alert and morally straight," the passage reads.
While Thursday’s win was a huge stepping stone for gay rights groups, stakes are currently high for the Boy Scouts of America – which boasts roughly 3 million youth participants. The measure could result in significant repercussions for the organization.
"I'm not happy as a parent," Rusty Tisdale, an assistant scoutmaster in Mississippi, told NBC News. "The gay activist isn't happy and will not be until homosexuals can be leaders, etc. So there will be more pressure, and more fighting, And more acquiescence. No thanks."
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"There are other activities for my kids to do," he added. "There are other organizations that I can support with my time and money."
Thursday’s measure, which is slated to go into effect on January 1, 2014, didn’t lift the organization’s ban on gay adult Scout leaders, who are still barred from holding positions.