The Boy Scouts of America, which has come under fire in recent months over its ban on transgender boys joining the scouts, announced Monday that the ban would be lifted.
In a statement posted on the BSA website, the century-old organization said that any individual identifying as a boy would be eligible to join the Cub or Boy Scouts, removing a requirement that only children assigned "male" at birth could participate.
"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 statement said. "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 Boy Scouts of America is committed to identifying program options that will help us truly serve the whole family, and this is an area that we will continue to thoughtfully evaluate to bring the benefits of Scouting to the greatest number of youth possible—all while remaining true to our core values, outlined in the Scout Oath and Law."
In December, the Secaucus Cub Scouts chapter became a lightning rod for criticism after an 8-year-old boy was booted from his scout troop because of his gender identity. (The organization said that gender identity assigned at birth, rather than what a family wrote on the application to the scouts, determined eligibility.) On Monday, NJ.com reported that the boy's family was planning on filing a discrimination complaint with the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety.
The Boy Scouts have long been a flashpoint for larger cultural battles, serving as a stand-in for the imagined notion of the "All-American" boy. For years, gay rights activists pushed for the organization to lift a ban on the participation of openly gay youth, as well as openly gay scout leaders. In 2013, the youth ban was lifted and two years later, the scout leader ban was also lifted. (The New York state Boy Scouts affiliate hired an openly gay scout leader several months prior to the removal of this ban in defiance of the national organization.) According to NPR, segregated scouting troops endured in the American South for much of the 20th century, with some still segregated as late as the mid-1970s