Boy Scouts of America (BSA) will accept members based on the gender identification provided in an individual’s application, opening the door to allowing transgender boys into the century-old organization.
“After weeks of significant conversations at all levels of our organization, we realized that referring to birth certificates as the reference point is no longer sufficient,” Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh said in a two-minute video posted on the BSA website yesterday. “Starting today, we will accept registration in our scouting programs based on the gender identity provided on an individual’s application. We will also continue to work with families to find scouting units that are the best fit for their children,” he said.
“We and others have recently been challenged by a very complex topic on the issue of gender identity. For more than 100 years, BSA along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations ultimately deferred to information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for, and participation in, many programs, especially single-gender programs,” said Surbaugh, who has been chief scout executive since 2015.
The policy shift likely grew out from a case in Secaucus, N.J., where an 8-year-old transgender boy was not allowed to remain in the Cub Scouts because he was born a girl. The boy’s mother charged the Northern New Jersey Council of Boy Scouts with discrimination, filing a civil rights complaint last week with the state, according to The Record.
Scouts For Equality Co-founder Zach Wahls called BSA’s decision “an important step forward for this American Institution.” He credited the boy, Joe Maldonado, and his mother Kristie “for their courage in doing what they knew was right. We look forward to seeing more detail clarifying this policy change in the days and weeks ahead,” he said.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) praised the organization’s shift while also calling on the Scouts to adopt a policy of full LGBTQ inclusion for employees and volunteers, in addition to members.
Communities and state laws are now interpreting gender identification differently than society did in the past and these new laws vary widely by state, according to Surbaugh. While Boy Scouts offers a number of programs that serve all youth, Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting are specifically designed to meet the needs of boys, according to BSA.
“I hope you will join with me in embracing the opportunity to bring scouting to more families and children and families that can benefit from what our program has to offer,” Surbaugh said in the video announcement.
“The BSA is committed to identifying program options that will help us truly serve the whole family,” Surbaugh said. “It’s an area we’ll continue to evaluate to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible, all while remaining true to our core beliefs outlined in the Scout Oath and Law.”
A national restriction on openly gay adult leaders and employees was lifted about 18 months ago. The National Executive Board ratified a resolution in July 2015 with almost 80 percent of its 71 members present and voting in favor.
The move came two years after BSA approved a policy change to welcome openly gay youth members but continue to ban openly gay adult leaders. A resolution was adopted by membership by a 61-to-38 percent margin in May 2013. The policy change took effect January 2014.
The shift in policy still barred allowed church-organized local units consider an individual’s sexual orientation when deciding who can volunteer and lead packs, according to HRC.