The Boy Scouts of America on Monday ended its blanket ban on gay adult leaders while allowing church-sponsored Scout units to maintain the exclusion for religious reasons.
The new policy, aimed at easing a controversy that has embroiled the Boy Scouts for years, takes effect immediately. It was approved by the BSA's National Executive Board on a 45-12 vote during a closed-to-the-media teleconference.
"For far too long this issue has divided and distracted us," said the BSA's president, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. "Now it's time to unite behind our shared belief in the extraordinary power of Scouting to be a force for good."
Initial reactions to the decision from groups on both sides suggested the issue would remain divisive.
The Mormon church, which sponsors more Scout units that any other organization, said it was "deeply troubled" by the decision. Church officials suggested they would look into the possibility of forming their own organization to replace Boy Scouts.
"The admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America," said a statement from Mormon headquarters in Salt Lake City.
In contrast, the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT-rights organization, said the Boy Scouts should not allow church-sponsored units to continue excluding gays.
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If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!