Local leaders applaud Boy Scouts' decision

After a wrenching debate, leaders of the Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday to open their ranks to openly gay boys for the first time.

"A scout is equal," said Zach Wahls of Scouts for Equality. "Today is a validation of the organization's willingness to reconsider its position."

Some Rhode Island human rights groups agreed with the decision.

"As the movement moves forward, I think it's going to be very difficult for responsible people to say that sexual orientation disqualifies them from anything," said the Rev. Dr. Don Anderson of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches.

The Narragansett Council of the Boy Scouts of America said it is pleased by a vote to allow openly gay boys to join.

In a written statement, the council says Thursday's vote is part of an ongoing process to review scouting's national membership standards.

The Narragansett Council serves scouts in all of Rhode Island and parts of southeastern Massachusetts and eastern Connecticut.

The Scouts' longstanding ban on gay adults remains in force, and many liberal Scout leaders have said they plan to continue pressing to end that ban.

Anderson hopes it changes soon too.

"What their current policy now says is, you can be an Eagle Scout but once you've done that, and you've now become an adult, you're not welcome back and be a leader," he said. "That's a bit strange that you would be willing to give your highest award to an individual and then say to that person, 'But you're not qualified to come back as a leader.'"

The new rule will go into effect in January.