On Thursday, president of the Boy Scouts of America and former defense secretary Robert Gates called for the Scouts to reconsider its ban on gay adult leaders. “We must deal with the world as it is,” he said, “not as we might wish it to be.”

According to the New York Times, Gates, an Eagle Scout, warned that the organization must change quickly, before a possible—and possibly more sweeping—court order comes down. “If we wait for the courts to act,” he said, “we could end up with a broad ruling that could forbid any kind of membership standard.”

“Any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement,” Gates said. Such a court order might—heaven forbid—strike down the Scouts’ ban on atheists.

While Gates’ statements don’t represent an official change in policy, they may represent a change of direction.

“There is much more left to be done until full equality prevails in Scouting,” GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement to the Times, “but recognizing how out of step the ban is with basic fairness is a good first step.”

Photo credit: AP Images. Contact the author of this post: brendan.oconnor@gawker.com.