Federal Courts repeatedly upheld the right of private voluntary organizations like the Boy Scouts to deny membership to openly homosexual members. Under pressure from corporate donors, the media, and some in government, the Boy Scouts bowed to pressure and changed its policy on membership.
This did not satisfy anyone. Traditionalists broke with the Scouts and started new Scout-like organizations, and pressure continued to build from outside groups, including corporations, because the ban on openly homosexual leaders, rather than members, continued.
Over the weekend, Robert Gates, former U.S. secretary of defense and current head of the Boy Scouts told a national gathering of Scouts that the ban on homosexual leadership has to change because the ban is not sustainable in the current environment of threats and lawsuits.
He told the attendees in Atlanta, Georgia, “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it would be. The status quo in our movement’s membership standards cannot be sustained.” He suggested that religious groups that sponsor Scout troops may be able to sustain the ban, however.
The challenges to the ban on gay leaders had already begun. The New York chapter of the Scouts hired an openly homosexual as a leader, and he has hired David Boies, the lawyer who led the effort at the Supreme Court to impose same-sex marriage on the country, to defend him if his hiring were challenged.
The Boy Scouts of America boasted a membership of five million fifty years ago. That is now down to nearly two million, with more defections expected as the Scouts begin to liberalize, as have the Girl Scouts–with similar results. According to the Scouts, its membership dropped six percent after the gay membership change in 2013.