One of America’s largest youth-serving organizations, the Boy Scouts of America announced on Monday that they will be reversing its 100 year policy of accepting only ‘boys’ and would begin accepting members based on the gender listed on their application, paving the way for transgender boys to join the organization.
“For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the group said in a statement on its website. “However, 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 announcement, reported on Monday night by The Associated Press, reverses a policy that drew controversy late last year when a transgender boy in New Jersey was kicked out of the organization about a month after joining, the New York Times reported.
“After weeks of significant conversations at all levels of our organization, we realized that referring to birth certificates as the reference point is no longer sufficient,” Michael Surbaugh, the Scouts’ chief executive, said in a recorded statement on Monday.
The announcement came amid a national debate over transgender rights, with cities and states across the nation struggling with whether and how to regulate gender identity in the workplace, in restrooms and at schools.
In recent years, the Boy Scouts of America has expanded rights for gay people. In 2013, the group ended its ban on openly gay youths participating in its activities. Two years later, the organization ended its ban on openly gay adult leaders.
Advocates for gay and transgender people who had pushed for changes in Boy Scouts’ policy praised Monday’s announcement.
“From our perspective, they clearly did the right thing,” said Zach Wahls, who co-founded Scouts for Equality, a nonprofit group that advocates for stronger protections in the organization for gays and transgender people. “My team and I knew that they were considering a policy change, but we are both heartened and surprised by how quickly they moved to change the situation.”
Last year, in response to parent complaints, the Boy Scouts of America removed an 8-year-old transgender boy from the Secaucus, N.J., Cub Scout pack he had joined just about a month earlier, according to The Record, a newspaper in northern New Jersey.