The Boy Scouts of America will allow transgender children who identify as boys to join its scouting troops, the group announced Monday.
Previously, communications director Effie Delimarko said, the group used the gender assigned on one’s birth certificate to determine a member’s eligibility. However, the group feels “that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently,” and will instead base enrollment on the gender listed by either the child or the parent on the scouting application.
“As one of America’s largest youth-serving organizations, the Boy Scouts of America continues to work to bring the benefits of our programs to as many children, families and communities as possible,” Delimarko said. “The BSA 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.”
Earlier Monday, Kristie Maldonado, a mother from New Jersey, sued the Boy Scouts of America’s Northern New Jersey Council because her son, Joe, had been kicked out of his Cub Scout pack for identifying as transgender. The lawsuit claims the scouting group’s leaders acted in violation of state law, arguing that troops are places of public accommodation that must not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“I felt very upset but then very angry because it’s just not fair that because I was born a girl they won’t let me in,” Joe told CNN in December.
The Boy Scouts’ stance on LGBTQ members and leaders has been under scrutiny for years. The organization voted in 2013 to allow gay children to join the scouting groups, eliminating sexual orientation as a criterion for membership. And in 2015, the organization ended its blanket ban on gay adults serving as troop leaders.
Religiously affiliated troops, however, are allowed to make their own policies on whether LGBTQ adults can serve as troop leaders.
Zach Wahls, the co-founder and spokesman for Scouts for Equality, praised Monday’s decision in an email to The Huffington Post.
“This is another historic day for the Boy Scouts of America,” he said. “The decision to allow transgender boys to participate in the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts is an important step forward for this American institution. We are incredibly proud of Joe Maldonado — the transgender boy from New Jersey whose expulsion last year ignited this controversy — and his mother Kristie for their courage in doing what they knew was right. We are also proud of the Boy Scouts for deciding to do the right thing. We look forward to seeing more detail clarifying this policy change in the days and weeks ahead.”