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Robert Gates: 'I Would've Supported' Gay Scout Leaders

During a speech at the Boy Scouts of America annual meeting, Gates said he would've supported gay adults in the Scouts but won't re-open the issue.
Posted at 9:56 PM, May 24, 2014

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has just begun his new role as president of Boy Scouts of America, or BSA, and he's already making headlines for his comments on gay members within the organization. (Via The White House)

"Let me address the membership issue ... In all candor, I would have supported going further, as I did in opening the way for gays to serve in the CIA and in the military." (Via Boy Scouts of America)

That was Gates saying he would've supported the inclusion of gay scoutleaders had he been president when the issue was first raised. Currently, the Scouts only allow gay youths under age 18 to become members. 

Gates was defense secretary when the military ended its ban on gay members through "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Although Gates said he would've backed gay members in Scouts, he added the discussion on including gay adults has already been settled. He said during his speech, he will "oppose any effort to re-open this issue" while he's president. (Via U.S. Army)

In an interview with Scouting Magazine, Gates also said the Scouts instead "need to turn our attention to further improving the quality of the program, getting more kids into Scouting and re-establishing our unity as a movement."

The Scouts have seen a steady decline in membership, sponsorship and corporate donors — like Disney and Lockheed Martin — over the past few years, partly due to its stance on gay members. 

But last year, 1,400 voting BSA members decided to remove the ban on gay youths. GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro told MSNBC back then, "We see this proposal as a first step to bringing full equality to the Boy Scouts." 

In his speech at the BSA's annual meeting, Gates said the organization can move forward by providing a safe environment for gay youths. He added, "maybe it's time for a blunt talk."