The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) on Thursday voted 61-38 percent to drop the organization's ban on gay youths from participating in the organization, according to CBS News's Topeka, Kan., affiliate.
In an op-ed published Wednesday in USA Today, BSA President Wayne Perry called the move "the right decision for Boy Scouts."
"The BSA's executive committee unanimously presented this resolution because it stays true to Scouting's mission and remains focused on kids," Perry wrote. "No matter what your opinion is on this issue, America needs Scouting, and our policies must be based on what is in the best interest of our nation's children."
In the same piece, Perry argues that permitting gay scouting leaders would have "conflicted with" the religious organizations that sponsor some 70 percent of scouting groups. He also stressed that the decision was an internal one, not forced by outside political pressure.
Still, popular support weighed heavily in support of the proposal. In a Washington Post / ABC News poll released earlier this month, 63 percent backed the move to admit gay scouts. The proposal garnered majority support across Democrats, Republicans and independents.
The group had originally planned to vote on a proposal that would have allowed local troops to decide whether to allow gay scout members in February. Leaders of the organization then said they wanted more time to deliberate the controversial issue, which would have, for the first time in the organization's century-long history, opened the door for gay scouts.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said in February that the administration did not “have a response to [the Boy Scouts’] process” but that the president “opposes discrimination in all forms.”
Later, President Obama voiced his support for the overturn of the ban, saying “nobody should be barred” from the opportunities and experiences provided by Scouting.
“My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life,” Obama said in a CBS News interview. “The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives.”
But prominent Republican lawmakers, including former presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have argued the organization should not be influenced by changes in “popular culture.”
“If we change and become more like pop culture, young men will be not as well served, America will not be as well served, and Boy Scouts will start on a decline that I don’t think will serve this country well as we go into the future,” Perry, an Eagle Scout, said in a speech to the Family Research Council earlier this month.
The vote was applauded by gay rights leaders, including Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality, an organization pushing for the overturn of the ban.
“Today’s vote ending discrimination of gay Scouts is truly a historic moment and demonstrates the Boy Scouts of America’s commitment to creating a more inclusive organization,” Wahls said in a statement. “We look forward to the day where we can celebrate inclusion of all members and are committed to continuing our work until that occurs.”