The president of the Boy Scouts of America said Thursday the youth organization must end its ban on gay adult leaders to reflect “social, political and juridical changes” in the United States.
Robert Gates, who served as secretary of defense in the Bush and Obama administrations, said “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” while speaking at the organization’s annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.
He said dozens of states are passing laws that protect employment rights on the basis of sexual orientation, and warned that a failure to change what he called “an unsustainable position” may lead the courts to order a change.
“Waiting for the courts is a gamble with huge stakes” Gates said because “we could end up with a broad ruling that could forbid any kind of membership standard.”
Alternatively, Gates said the policy could be made “to allow charter partners — unit sponsoring organizations — to determine the standards for their scout leaders.”
“Such an approach would allow all churches, which sponsor some 70 percent of our scout units, to establish leadership standards consistent with their faith,” he said.
Gates, who is also a former director of the CIA, helped bring an end to the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy with respect to gay service members.