DALLAS May 21 As former U.S. Defense Secretary
Robert Gates is set to head the Boy Scouts of America, many are
wondering if the official who helped end the U.S. military's
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy will also lift the scout's ban on
gay adult leaders.
The century-old Texas-based organization kicked off its
annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday as
questions lingered over its decision last year to allow gay
scouts in its ranks but bar them from adult leadership posts.
Gates, a former CIA director, will succeed Boy Scouts
President Wayne Perry, who led the group through the emotionally
charged debate in May last year when the council voted to lift a
ban on openly gay scouts, a decision criticized by both
conservatives opposed to the change and gay rights groups for
not going far enough.
Gay rights groups are optimistic that Gates, who will
officially take his new post on Thursday, will end the ban on
Gates was secretary of defense from December 2006 to July 1,
2011, serving both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which barred openly gay,
lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service, was repealed
on Dec. 22, 2010.
Gates' appointment could prompt a return of major sponsors,
such as Lockheed Martin Corp and Intel Corp,
which pulled funding to protest policies seen as discriminatory.
"Secretary Gates already knows the dedication and
professionalism of gay and lesbian military members, so bringing
full inclusion to the Boy Scouts should be a no-brainer," said
Rich Ferraro, spokesman for the gay rights group, GLAAD.
Gay scouts were officially allowed in from Jan. 1.,
prompting some parents to pull their boys out of the
A group of conservatives broke away and formed the start-up
Trail Life USA, which condemns sexual activity outside of
marriage between a man and woman as "sinful before God."
On Wednesday, gay activists delivered a Change.org petition
signed by 120,000 people to Amazon.com Inc asking the
online retail giant to cut all ties to the Boy Scouts unless the
group stops discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
(Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Richard Chang)