US President Barack Obama has praised the Boy Scouts of America for opening up their membership to gay youth, but reaffirmed his belief that leadership opportunities in the organisation should be available to gay adults.

The final vote on a months-long debate on whether to accept gay scouts and scout leaders took place 24 May, in Dallas-Fort Worth, Grapevine. Over 60% of the 1,400 strong national council of local leaders voted to lift the national ban on openly gay youth joining, but maintained the ban on gay adults becoming leaders.

Historically, the US President has also been honorary president for the Boy Scouts of America. President Obama has maintained through the course of the debate that he supports lifting all bans on gay membership of the scouts.

On Friday White House spokesperson Shin Inouye told the Washington Blade: “The President welcomes the decision by the Boy Scouts of America to open its membership to all, regardless of sexual orientation.

“He has long believed that the Scouts is a valuable organization that has helped educate and build character in American boys for more than a century.”

Inouye stated: “He continues to believe that leadership positions in the Scouts should be open to all, regardless of sexual orientation.”

Rich Ferraro, a GLAAD spokesperson, said: “As the Honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America, this statement on President Obama’s support is significant. Gay parents and adults should be accepted into Scouting and our campaign for change will continue until that happens. As openly gay youth begin participating in Scouting and earn Eagle Rank, the Boy Scouts will come to realize that gay Americans and our families only strengthen Scouting as an institution.”

In a statement released by the White House last august, Obama revealed that he opposed the ban.

He said: “My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life.

In an interview in February he stated “nobody should be barred” from the experience of being a scout.