The Boy Scouts of America will accept gay youth enrollment beginning on Jan. 1, 2014. The organization voted to change its policy in May and while gay youths can become Boy Scouts, the group's ban on homosexual adult leaders remains.
New Year's Day marks the official start of BSA's new policy, the Associated Press reports. While the move was heralded by many, the group will face new challenges as it accepts gay youths into its ranks. In the wake of the announcement earlier in the year, the Southern Baptist Convention was among the first groups to protest the BSA's decision.
In addition to dealing with challenges from conservative groups, the BSA will also have to address infrastructure and policy changes associated with accepting Gay Scouts. Despite the decision, the BSA hasn't faced any major loss in sponsorships or defections, AP reports. Many of the group's sponsors such as the Roman Catholic Church have stayed on with little fallout from the decision, Brad Haddock, a BSA national executive board member who is chairman of the policy implementation committee, told the AP.
Haddock told the AP that any local fallout such as a church no longer sponsoring a troop was met with an equal amount of support from another church in a community pledging support of a local troop. The same policies expected of Scouts will apply for Gay Scouts, and the BSA has addressed many questions ahead of the official start date.
Official BSA policy states that Gay Scouts can march in pride parades but can't wear their uniform. While they can express their sexuality, the rules states, "that acknowledgment may not reach the level of distraction, which may include advocacy, promotion, or the distribution of information of a sexual nature."
As for sleeping, showering and other arrangements, the BSA says those decisions are left to each troop leader's discretion, although it will encourage troops to move away from group showers, while any request from a Scout or parent will be honored.
Haddock said he hopes that on Jan. 1, "It's business as usual, nothing happens and we move forward."