During its annual meeting in Atlanta today, the president of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) called for the organization to end its official ban on gay adult troop leaders, the New York Times reported.

President Robert Gates, who once served as director of the CIA and as Secretary of Defense, said that “we must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be.” He also said that not ending the ban would “be the end of us as a national movement.”

And as is the case with every issue in America today, Gates said there would have to be a religious exemption since nearly 70 percent of troops are sponsored by churches and other religious groups.

“Such an approach would allow all churches … to establish leadership standards consistent with their faiths,” said Gates. “We must, at all costs, preserve the religious freedom of our church partners to do this.”

While the religious exemption would still allow for some discrimination against the LGBT community, lifting the overall ban is at least a step in the right direction.

“Dr. Gates has built his reputation on straight talk and tough decisions, and I’m glad he’s finally endorsing a re-evaluation of the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay adults,” said Scouts for Equality executive director Zach Wahls in a statement.

“It seems like the Boy Scouts will continue an internal dialogue about the subject and that a change within the next year or two is imminent.”

The BSA lifted the previous ban on gay scouts in 2013, after more than 60 percent of the organization’s leaders voted that no boy would be denied membership “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

As Gates noted in his speech, troops have openly expressed opposition to the anti-gay troop leader policy, and some, like a troop in New York, have openly defied it.

“While technically we have the authority to revoke their charters, such an action would deny the lifelong benefits of scouting to hundreds of thousands of boys and young men today and vastly more in the future,” he said. “I will not take that path.”

Click here to read Gates’ full speech, with remarks about lifting the ban starting on page 13.