RICHMOND (WRIC)—The New Year is bringing some major changes to the Boy Scouts of America.
A new policy says Scouts cannot be turned away based on their sexual orientation. This controversial decision has already had an effect; some families have decided to leave the Scouts, while others applaud this change, saying it's in the right direction.
The debate came with protests both locally and nationally.
"This is the same argument that we heard years ago, when some people where fighting the integration of schools, or the integration of the armed forces," said Bill Harrison of the Richmond Gay Community Foundation.
Starting Jan. 1, the Boy Scouts of America will allow openly gay Scouts in the organization for the first time. The National Council voted in May to allow the change. Under the resolution, no youth may be denied membership in the group based solely on his sexual orientation or preference.
"To state that a young man [could] not have high morals or be a good American because he happens to be gay is based on ignorance," Harrison said.
This major change has had an effect on troops in the Richmond area. The executive of local Boy Scouts is out of town, but ABC 8 News spoke with him over the phone. He says about 10 churches ended their sponsorship of different troops, and some families have pulled their kids out. But he says those troops have found new sponsors, many churches have remained, and for the most part, the change has been accepted. He doesn't expect 2014 to be any different than in years past.
"I commend the Boy Scouts of America," Harrison said. "This was a step in the right direction. I think a year from now, probably we're all going to look back and wonder what the big uproar was all about."
While the Scouts have made this historic change, they are maintaining their ban on gay adult leaders.
Meanwhile, the controversial decision has led some members to form a new organization called Trail Life USA, which is nearly identical to the Boy Scouts, but bans openly gay members.
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