Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates said on Thursday the group's ban on adult gay leaders cannot be sustained, a move that could open the door to ending the policy.
Gates said at a national meeting of the group he does not plan to revoke the charter of Boy Scout councils that allow gay leaders, according to a text of the speech.
"We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained," said Gates, who as U.S. secretary of defense helped end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that barred openly gay individuals from serving in the military.
He said he was not asking the Boy Scouts' national board to make any policy change at the current meeting.
The 105-year-old organization lifted its ban on gay youth in 2013 but continues to prohibit the participation of openly gay adults.
The selection last year of Gates as president of the Boy Scouts was seen as an opportunity to revisit the organization's policy on gay adults.
Gates said he personally would have supported going further toward lifting the Scouts' ban on gays but would not reopen debate during his two-year term.
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