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And in January, the Boy Scouts announced that it would allow transgender children who identify as boys to enroll in its boys-only programs.

At the time, Surbaugh said, “communities and state laws are now interpreting gender identity differently than society did in the past,” which is reflected in the group’s reasoning for the change.

The Boy Scouts of America announced Wednesday that it will admit girls into the Cub Scouts starting next year and establish a new program for teenage girls, a move that marks a historic shift for the organization founded for young men more than a century ago.

Citing years of research and feedback from Scouts nationwide, officials from the group said that Cub Scout dens — the smallest unit — will be single-gender, either all boys or all girls.

The shift by the Boy Scouts comes as the group has found itself embroiled in larger national debates about gender roles and sexual orientation.Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout and cofounder of Scouts for Equality, called Wednesday’s decision to allow girls into the group a “step forward.” His group has pressed the Boy Scouts to allow gay and transgender children.He said he still would like to see the group end its ban on atheists and agnostics.The Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910 for boys and their male leaders, focuses on promoting responsibility through an array of outdoor activities and educational opportunities.In the 1980s, Catherine Pollard, a mother from Milford, Conn., sued the group to overturn the ban against female Scoutmasters, alleging it violated sex discrimination laws.

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