US scouts welcome transgender boys

WASHINGTON - The Boy Scouts of America will welcome transgender children who identify as boys, the group announced Monday, in a dramatic reversal from its traditional stand.

Chief executive Michael Surbaugh said the group will now allow individuals to enroll based on the gender with which they identify, ending a more than century-old policy of using the gender on their birth certificate.

"We realized that referring to birth certificates as the reference point is no longer sufficient," he said in a statement.

"Communities and state laws are now interpreting gender identity differently. And these new laws vary widely from state to state." Zach Wahls, co-founder of the advocacy group Scouts for Equality, hailed the "historic" step.

"We are incredibly proud of Joe Maldonado - the transgender boy from New Jersey whose expulsion last year ignited this controversy - and his mother Kristie for their courage in doing what they knew was right," Wahls said in a statement.

"We are also proud of the Boy Scouts for deciding to do the right thing." The move marked a major shift for the Boy Scouts, which ended a ban on gay scouts in 2013.

Two years later, it officially scrapped a decades-old ban on gay troop leaders, a historic but controversial decision after years of legal wrangling and internal strife.

One of the country's largest youth groups, the Boy Scouts counts nearly 2.3 million members and around a million adult volunteers.