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The president of the Boy Scouts of America made a surprise announcement today. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the organization needs to rethink its ban of openly gay men serving as scout leaders. NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reports.
HANSI LO WANG, BYLINE: At the Boy Scouts' annual meeting today, Robert Gates challenged the organization to face internal debates about the ban. He also cited cultural and legal shifts over gay marriage and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
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ROBERT GATES: I must speak as plainly and as bluntly to you as I spoke to presidents when I was director of CIA and secretary of defense. We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it would be.
WANG: Gates was clear - he did not ask for board members to immediately change the policy, but he suggested that local churches and other sponsors be allowed to determine who can lead their local troops.
ZACH WAHLS: I think it's a big step forward. It is a 180 from where we were last year.
WANG: That's Zach Wahls, the executive director of Scouts for Equality, a critic of the Boy Scouts' policy against openly gay adults. But for some religious groups, changing the policy would be too extreme. Richard Land is president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary.
RICHARD LAND: The point is, is it wise and is it prudent to put men who are attracted to people of the same sex in the kind of proximity and the kind of situations that Boy Scout leaders would be in with Boy Scout troops?
WANG: Robert Gates called for national Boy Scout leaders to reflect and pray on what to do next, warning that it's only a matter of time before the courts would force them to change. Hansi Lo Wang, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.