The Boy Scouts of America announced on Wednesday that it will admit girls into the Cub Scouts starting next year and establish a new program for older girls using the organization's same curriculum.
In the historic move, Cub Scout dens -- the smallest unit -- will be single-gender, either all boys or all girls. Cub Scout packs, which are larger and include a number of dens, will have the option to welcome both genders if they choose.
The Boy Scouts' board of directors voted unanimously for the change on Wednesday.
"This decision is true to the BSA's mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law. The values of Scouting -- trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example -- are important for both young men and women," Michael Surbaugh, the group's chief executive, said in a statement.
He added that "we believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children. We strive to bring what our organization does best -- developing character and leadership for young people -- to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders."
The program for older girls is expected to start in 2019 and will enable girls to earn the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.
In a statement, the group said that after "years of receiving requests from families and girls," it "evaluated the results of numerous research efforts" and came to its decision.
The Girl Scouts of America, which is separate and independent of the Boy Scouts, has been the primary scouting alternative for girls, and claims a membership of 1.8 million.
Recently, the Boy Scouts announced that it will allow transgender children who identify as boys to enroll in its boys-only programs.
In recent years the group has found itself embroiled in larger national debates about gender roles and sexual orientation. These debates, in turn, have led the Boy Scouts -- which has about 2.3 million members -- to examine long-held policies that date to its founding days over a century ago. In some instances, change has come swiftly. In others, only after years of legal battles.
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