Robert Gates, the president of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), on Thursday called for an end to the BSA's longstanding policy of excluding gay adult leaders.

The BSA ended its policy banning openly gay scouts in January, 2014, but adults are not allowed to participate in the program.

Gates, who as secretary of defense oversaw the end of the military's “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy, made his remarks during the BSA's annual national meeting in Atlanta.

“We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” Gates warned the group's national leadership. “The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained.”

Gates said that he would no longer enforce the ban on chapters who wish to include openly gay leaders.

“We cannot ignore growing internal challenges to our current membership policy from some councils,” he said. “Nor can we ignore the social, political and juridical changes taking place in our country – changes taking place at a pace over this past year no one anticipated.”

One such chapter is the Boy Scouts' Greater New York Councils, which last month hired Pascal Tessier, an 18-year-old openly gay Eagle Scout, despite the group's national ban.

Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality, said in a statement that he was “proud to see Dr. Gates charting a course towards full equality in the BSA.”