ORONO, Maine — The Boy Scouts of America announced Monday that it will allow transgender children to enroll in Scouting programs beginning immediately, but it was unclear Tuesday if the policy change would impact any troops in Maine.
The decision came nearly four years after the lifting of a ban on gay youth members was announced and about 18 months after the ban on gay adult leaders was rescinded.
R. Scott Harvey, Scout executive for the Katahdin Area Council, said Tuesday in an email that he was unaware of any transgender children being turned away from troops in northern and eastern Maine.
The Katahdin Area Council governs Boy Scouts of America packs, troops, crews, events and activities for six northern Maine counties — Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Waldo and Washington — accounting for two-thirds of Maine’s geographic area and one-third of its population.
“We hope that the change in our approach in determining eligibility will enable us to bring the benefits of our programs to as many children, families and communities as possible, and we encourage all interested, eligible youth to apply,” Harvey said.
The Pine Tree Council is based in Portland and governs Maine’s 10 counties in southern Maine. It adopted a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual orientation and advocacy several months before the national organization lifted the ban on gay youth.
Efforts to reach Eric Tarbox, head of the Pine Tree Council, were unsuccessful early Tuesday.
The Boy Scouts of America is organized in Cub Scout packs, for boys ages 7-11; Boy Scout troops, ages 11-18; and Venturing crews, for boys and girls ages 14-21, nationwide. Local Scout groups select their own leadership.
Many troops meet in local houses of worship that might not support the Boy Scouts of America’s decision.
“While religious partners will continue to have the right to make decisions based on religious beliefs, we will work with families to find local Scouting units that are the best fit for their children,” Harvey said. “If there aren’t any local Scouting units in their area, we will work with the family to try and organize a unit in their area.”
The impetus for the policy change may have been a discrimination complaint filed against the Boy Scouts in New Jersey last week, according to news reports. The complaint was filed by Kristie Maldonado, the mother of 8-year-old Joe Maldonado, who was born a girl, and forced to leave his troop last year.
“This is another historic day for the Boy Scouts of America,” Zach Wahls, co-founder of Scouts for Equality, said Monday. “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.”
Reuters contributed to this report.