Nightly News   |  May 23, 2013

Boy Scouts lift ban on admitting gay scouts

Ending a process that started four months ago, Boy Scout leaders have voted to allow gay scouts but the ban on gay adult leaders remains in place. NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>>> a major turning point late dane an american institution that's been around for more than 100 years. and a part of the lives of 100 million american children. after months of consideration, during the passionate debate tonight the boy scouts of america has voted to allow openly gay members. pete williams broke the news back in january that the securities were considering this change and starts us off with late developments. pete, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening. this is a big change for an organization that has fought for decades to preserve the strict ban on admitting gay scouts and scouting officials say tonight it passed with 60% of the vote of its national council . this means the long standing policy will be lifted that had banned gay scout but remains in effect for banning gay scout leaders. the vote ends a wrenching process that started four months ago when boy scout leaders revealed they were considering a change.

>> this issue is a defining issue in our country and our state and our society.

>> reporter: the decision came today at this conference center near dallas a meeting of scouting's 1400 member national council . after the boy scouts propose in january to let local troops decide the issue for themselves generating a storm of petition from some parents who thought went too far and others 0 who thought it didn't go far enough. today they voted to end the ban on gay scouts. church groups represent 70% of all scouting units. many fought to keep the ban.

>> not turning it into a sexual agenda item of a special interest organization.

>> reporter: the mormon church sponsors one quarter of the scout ug knits said they wouldn't oppose admission of gay scouts. other churches supported the change.

>> it's about life skills and building character and it's not about sexual orientation . it never has been.

>> reporter: a survey conducted for the boy scouts found 48% of boys of current scouts support the ban down from 57% three years ago. a majority of boy scouts themselves 67% oppose the ban on admitting gay scouts, 42% opposing it strongly. chuck and rhonda of denver are among parents in favor of a change. they have two sons in the cub scouts .

>> we look at this issue 50 years in the future. it will be like civil rights .

>> reporter: the scouts say the new policy take effect of january 1 , 2014 . it will give local units time to adjust. as for considering a change in the ban on gay scout leaders, the organization says this was a lengthy process and it has no plans for further review.

>>> pete williams , thanks so much.