GRAPEVINE, TX, May 23, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Boy Scouts of America's (BSA) National Council has voted in favor of a resolution to allow openly gay boys to join the organization.
Sixty percent of the 1400 delegates present at the Scouts annual meeting in Dallas, Texas voted in favor of the policy change.
The resolution states that “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
A ban on openly homosexual Scout leaders remains in place.
The change comes despite a survey by the BSA, which found that of 200,000 respondents, 61 percent supported the previous policy.
In a statement announcing the vote, the scouting organization said that while “people have different opinions about this policy, we can all agree that kids are better off when they are in Scouting.”
Debate over the change has been contentious, with some predicting that the issue could fragment the scouting organization.
Earlier this week a petition signed by nearly 19,000 scouts, former scouts, and members of scouting families was presented to the BSA, urging the group to “uphold the values that have defined the organization for over 100 years.”
Additionally, a group of fifty U.S. religious leaders also signed a joint statement encouraging the BSA to maintain its current standards, pointing out that many troops are hosted by troops and religious institutions.
Family Research Council (FRC), one of the leading organizations that opposed the change, expressed “deep disappointment” with the vote.
"Sadly, the Boy Scouts' legacy of producing great leaders has become yet another casualty of moral compromise,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
“Unfortunately, Boy Scout delegates capitulated to strong-arm tactics and abandoned the timeless values that have served the organization well for more than 100 years.”
The Boy Scouts have been under intense pressure for years to change their policy banning homosexual youths and leaders.
Until this year the Scouts fought hard for the right to maintain their former policy, even taking the issue as far as the United States Supreme Court, which upheld their right to set membership standards.
As recently as last July, the 100-year-old outdoor group announced it firmly intended maintain its moral standards for members and leaders. However, in January the national scouting organization suddenly bowed to pressure to reconsider the policy.
Perkins accused the delegates of succumbing to “a concerted and manipulative effort by the national BSA leadership.” He also predicted that many local troops will break their ties the national organization, “so that they can continue to foster character among boys and respect the right of parents to discuss issues of sexuality with their sons.”
"It is clear that the current BSA leadership will bend with the winds of popular culture, and the whims of liberal special interest groups,” he said. “There is little doubt that God will soon be ushered out of scouting.
“Now is the time for new leadership. In the meantime, we will stand with those BSA Councils who will now act to protect boys from a new policy that only creates moral confusion and disrespects the views of the vast majority of Scouting parents."
The new policy will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.