The Boy Scouts of America officially announced on Wednesday that girls will be allowed to join as members.
The unanimous decision comes after several years of official consideration, with both prospective female scouts and their families urging BSA to permit girls.
"This decision is true to the BSA's mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law," said BSA Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh in a press release. "The values of scouting—trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave, and reverent, for example—are important for both young men and women." He also cited the new one-size-fits-all approach as a step toward increasing accessibility for busy families that might find it impossible to drive their children to multiple meetings and trips, or that might prefer to participate in outdoor activities together.
Many of the advocates for a gender-inclusive BSA also argued that, while Girl Scouts of America provides a girls-only alternative to Boy Scouts, it lacks the outdoor focus that BSA is better known for. Girl Scouts of America has disputed this claim.
Girls will be able to enroll in Cub Scouts (ages 7 to 10) for the 2018 program year, though BSA is letting individual packs decide whether they want to add all-girl divisions, become co-ed, or remain boys-only (dens, smaller groups within the packs, will remain single gender). The new structure for Boy Scouts (ages 11 to 17) is yet to be determined, but more information will be available in time for girls to sign up for the 2019 program year.
In the past, BSA has faced controversy over its 2015 decision to allow gay troop leaders, and its official acceptance of openly gay scouts in 2013, which prompted the creation of more conservative scouting organizations. While BSA has operated smaller co-ed programs since the 1970s, its ruling to allow female scouts remains in line with a more inclusive direction.