The Boy Scouts of America announced Monday that it will accept members based on gender identity, which will allow transgender children who identify as male to become scouts.
For more than 100 years, BSA used the gender listed on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for the all-male program, said Jack Sears, the CEO of BSA’s North Florida Council.
“That approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state,” the organization’s announcement stated Monday.
Before 2013, BSA did not allow openly gay men to be a part of the organization, which led to different legal disputes, some of which landed in the United States Supreme Court.
In 2000, UF Law Professor Darren Hutchinson was involved in U.S. Supreme Court case Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, which upheld the organization’s right to deny or expel gay men due to its fundamental moral stance against homosexuality.
BSA voluntarily removed its anti-gay stance 13 years later, which Hutchinson believed to be an attempt at keeping the organization’s donor base and salvaging its bad reputation.
“The anti-gay ban cost them a loss of donations and gave them bad press,” Hutchinson, 45, said.
Hutchinson was surprised to hear BSA changed its policy, and said that although it’s possible BSA leaders had a change in heart regarding LGBTQ+ issues, the change most likely has to do with money and publicity.
“Maybe they just wanted to avoid another battle that could cost them in terms of reputation,” Hutchinson said.
Although chapters of the organization exist across the country, Hutchinson said this change in policy will mostly impact membership in more progressive cities.
“The local groups that sponsor Boy Scout troops are very diverse, so some of them are progressive organizations located in urban areas, or places with liberal-minded individuals,” he said. “So I could see transgender individuals joining in those locations.”
Eagle Scout Trey LaNasa, 20, said that although he considers himself to be conservative, he’s glad the organization reevaluated its goals.
“Their policies have been trending this way anyway, and it makes sense,” LaNasa said. “As an organization, you have to grow and you can’t be leaving people out that identify as the demographic you’re trying to reach.”
LaNasa said some of his best memories come from his time as an Eagle Scout, where he gained the moral and ethical lessons he uses in college.
“The Boy Scouts of America is primarily a skills-based organization,” he said. “Therefore, this decision makes sense to me in the long-run.”