The Boy Scouts of America announced Monday that it will allow transgender children to enroll in scouting programs.
Boy Scouts chief executive Michael Surbaugh said in a video message that the organization will now accept boys based on the gender a parent puts on a child’s scouting application, ending a policy of accepting boys based on the gender listed on a child’s birth certificate.
“We realized that referring to birth certificates as the reference point is no longer sufficient,” Surbaugh said in a video message. “Communities and state laws are now interpreting gender identity differently than society did in the past. And these new laws vary widely from state to state.”
Surbaugh said the new policy goes into effect immediately.
“Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child,” he said in a written statement.
The shift is a significant one for the Boy Scouts, which ended a ban on gay scouts in 2013. In 2015, the organization decided to allow gay scout leaders, a decision that came months after a council in New York defied policy and hired an openly gay scout leader, the organization’s president called for an end to the practice and the New York attorney general started investigating the group for discriminatory employment practices.
“This is another historic day for the Boy Scouts of America. 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,” Zach Wahls, the co-founder of Scouts for Equality, said in a statement.
Last year, an eight-year-old transgender Boy Scout in New Jersey was kicked out of his troop.
“It made me mad,” the boy, Joe Maldonado, who was born a girl, told The Record newspaper in New Jersey. “I had a sad face, but I wasn’t crying. I’m way more angry than sad. My identity is a boy. If I was them, I would let every person in the world go in. It’s right to do.”
A Boy Scout spokeswoman told the New York Times last month that Joe did not meet eligibility requirements to participate in Boy Scouts.
Joe’s mother, Kristie Maldonado, told The Washington Post on Monday that she filed a discrimination complaint against the Boy Scouts in New Jersey last week and believes that was the impetus for the policy change.
Boy Scouts spokeswoman Effie Delimarkos said the organization discussed the change over the past few weeks and part of that discussion included the case of the Maldonados. Delimarkos said the organization hasn’t received the complaint Maldonado said she filed.
About the policy change, Maldonado said, “I am very happy, but it’s like a Catch-22,” because her son is no longer a scout. “No other kid this will happen to, ever again … they’re accepting all.”