BY NOMAAN MERCHANT
DALLAS -- Robert Gates, the new president of the Boy Scouts of America, said Friday that he would have moved last year to allow openly gay adults in the organization but said he opposes any further attempts to address the policy now.
Gates took over an organization this week that serves about 2.5 million youth but faces continued membership declines and fights over its inclusion of openly gay boys, but not adults. Gates, the former secretary of defense who oversaw the end of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, addressed those issues Friday, a day after Scouting's national leadership elected him president.
"I was prepared to go further than the decision that was made," Gates told The Associated Press in an interview in advance of a speech before the group's national leaders at its annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. "I would have supported having gay Scoutmasters, but at the same time, I fully accept the decision that was democratically arrived at by 1,500 volunteers from across the entire country."
The BSA's National Council voted at last year's annual meeting to accept openly gay youth, after a monthslong process with protests on both sides. Gates planned to tell Scouting's leaders Friday that a continued fight over the issue threatens BSA's future.
"Given the strong feelings — the passion — involved on both sides of this matter, I believe strongly that to re-open the membership issue or try to take last year's decision to the next step would irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement — with the high likelihood neither side would subsequently survive on its own," Gates said in prepared remarks.
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