Boy Scouts of America allows girls to join ranks
The Boy Scouts of America has announced that it will allow girls to join its ranks for the first time.
The BSA earlier this year announced that it was changing its policy to allow trans boys to enrol in its programmes.
Previously, the BSA had checked the birth certificate of each applicant.
And on Wednesday the BSA announced plans to allow girls to join its ranks and to progress up to the rank of Eagle Scout.
“We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children,” said Michael Surbaugh, chief executive of the Boy Scouts.
The BSA’s board of directors voted unanimously to make the change to its policy.
It makes the change to the organisation which had only allowed boys for over a hundred years.
The change will take effect next year.
“Cub Scout dens will be single-gender — all boys or all girls,” the BSA said in a statement.
The National Organisation for Women had urged the BSA to change its policy.
Sydney Ireland had spoken on behalf of NOW to say that she hoped to become an Eagle Scout like her older brother had.
“I just want to do what the Boy Scouts do — earn the merit badges and earn the Eagle Award,” she told NBC News.
“The Girl Scouts is a great organization, but it’s just not the program that I want to be part of. I think girls should just have the opportunity to be a member of any organization they want regardless of gender.”
NOW issued a statement in January saying it was inspired by a 15-year-old New York City girl’s wishes to join the BSA to follow her brother’s footsteps.
“Women can now hold all combat roles in the military, and women have broken many glass ceilings at the top levels of government, business, academia and entertainment,” said the President of NOW, Terry O’Neill.
“It’s long past due that girls have equal opportunities in Scouting.”
Responding, the BSA’s Communications director Effie Delimarkos pointed to the organisation’s co-ed programmes, and said they would continue to be an important part of the BSA’s work.
“We’re certainly committed to finding program options that work for the entire family – it’s an area we continue to evaluate,” Delimarkos said at the time.
“But we also feel that the benefit of a single-gender program is an important priority.”
The organisation said the decision to allow trans boys was based on various states and communities changing the way legal gender is defined.
The decision came after an eight year old boy and his family announced last week that they were suing the New Jersey Boy Scouts’ Council after he was kicked out of the troop for his gender identity.
Joe Maldonado and his mother Kristie are claiming that the council violated state law against discrimination.
The young boy, who has identified as a boy since 2, was accepted into the scouts in October but kicked out the following month after parents allegedly complained about his trans status.
Mrs Maldonado had been asked to prove her son was a boy in a phone call from the group.
Parents of other children in the group had complained that there was a trans child in the class. Following the complaints Scout officials took the decision to ban the child.
Effie Delimarkos, a spokeswoman for Boy Scouts of America, said that Joe was kicked out because he did not “meet eligibility requirements”.
“The BSA grants youth membership to Cub Scout to boys in the first through fifth grades, or 7 to 10 years of age,” she said. “If needed we defer to the information provided for an individual’s birth certificate and their biological sex.”
She added that scouting “teaches its youth members and adult leaders to be respectful of other people and individual beliefs.”
The Boy Scouts have previously said they would allow trans children to join coeducational programmes, but gender specific programmes such as the Cub and Boy scouts would be off limits.
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“Their child does not meet the eligibility requirements to participate in this programme, so Boy Scouts of America (BSA) leadership reached out to the family to inform them and share information on alternative programmes,” Delimkarkos added.
Kristie Maldonado said: “I was in shock, upset. The kids didn’t have a problem it was all his friends, he was having fun.
“Not one of the kids said, “You don’t belong here,’” she added.
“I don’t know, it’s just not fair,” Joe said. “It made me mad. I had a sad face, but I wasn’t crying. I’m way more angry than sad. My identity is a boy.
“If I was them, I would let every person in the world go in. It’s right to do.”