The Boy Scouts Have Overruled a Longstanding Ban on Openly Gay Leaders

It's an awesome—if only partial—step forward.

Boy Scouts of America badge on shirt
(Image credit: Getty Images)

On Monday, the Boy Scouts of America made a historic decision. In a 45-12 vote by its executive board, the BSA decided to lift its ban on openly gay troop leaders, effective immediately.

The Boy Scouts have come under fire in recent years for what many believe are regressive ideologies and practices—while gay youths have been allowed to participate since 2013, gay adults have been blocked, not only from volunteer efforts but also from paid positions and leadership roles. 

"For far too long this issue has divided and distracted us," the Boy Scouts' president, Robert Gates, said in a video released yesterday. "Now it's time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of Scouting to be a force for good."

Not surprisingly, there's already a backlash—the Mormon Church, which has been a significant participant in the Boy Scouts' efforts over the years, has threatened to pull out. And the BSA's new ruling doesn't come without a catch: While the organization on the whole is lifting its ban on gay leadership, church-sponsored troops are still allowed to choose leaders who reflect their beliefs, even if that means excluding gay men.

Jessica Pels

As the editor of Cosmopolitan, Jess oversees the editorial for all of Cosmo's efforts across print, digital, video, and emerging platforms. Previously she served as the digital director of Marie Claire, where she tripled the readership, and she's held print and hybrid posts at Glamour and Teen Vogue. In 2013 she launched an interactive e-commerce platform for a fashion-tech startup, and in a former life she was a ballet dancer and NYU film student. She lives in Manhattan with her scruffy dog George.