The Boy Scouts of America voted Thursday to allow gay scouts into its ranks. The move ends a ban that's existed throughout the organization's 103-year history, but the reversal does not extend to openly gay adults, who are not allowed to serve as leaders.
When Matt Comer was 14, he said he was kicked out of scouting after troop leaders found out he was gay. The Charlotte man said his dismissal was the first publicly documented case of anti-gay discrimination in scouting in North Carolina.
"It was very scary for me to look into the eyes of my scout leaders as they told me that I was no longer welcome there," he said.
Now, 13 years later, he flew to the group's headquarters in Texas where Thursday more than 60 percent of scouting's National Council voted for the historic policy change.
"I'm happy to see it personally, but I'm even more happy to know that gay youth today will not face the same rejection that I once did," Comer said.
The reversal goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014. It does not extend to openly gay adults, who are still not allowed to serve as scoutmasters or in other leadership roles. Comer, who now works as the editor of Charlotte's gay and lesbian newspaper Q Notes, said that's his next focus.
Some conservative opponents said they will pull their sponsorships of packs and troops, and parents have threatened to take their boys out of scouting.
The organization said it recognizes people have different opinions on the policy, but "one thing everyone can agree on is that kids are better off in scouting."