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July 27, 2015

Boy Scouts of America approves gay leaders in vote

The Boy Scouts of America ended its ban on gay adults serving in leadership positions Monday. 

The National Executive Board voted to approve an amendment that nixes the controversial rule. According to the organization, 79 percent of members voted in favor of the amendment.

The decision comes during a changing tide in public opinion concerning gay rights, marked by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage across the country. 

Boy Scouts' president Robert Gates, the former Secretary of Defense under Barack Obama, had recommended the decision. He said the policy could not be sustained, in part because of legal battles over the law. As defense secretary, Gates had helped end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military, which barred openly gay individuals from serving.

Decisions on hiring will still be made at the local level, and religiously chartered organizations will still be allowed to use religious beliefs as a standard for hiring. That includes sexuality. The Washington Post reports that 70 percent of Boy Scout troops are run by faith-based groups, in many cases by faiths that do not approve of homosexuality. 

"This change allows Scouting’s members and parents to select local units, chartered to organizations with similar beliefs, that best meet the needs of their families," a press release from the organization said. "This change also respects the right of religious chartered organizations to choose adult volunteer leaders whose beliefs are consistent with their own."

In June, the Philadelphia chapter of the Boy Scouts of America decided to allow openly gay leaders in defiance of the national ban. That decision came a month after Gates said publicly the ban should be lifted, prompting the Cradle of Liberty Council, which has more than 15,000 members, to lift the ban locally. 

Reuters contributed to this report.