In July, the Boys Scouts of America appeared adamant. The organization would stick with its policies excluding gay scouts and scout leaders. On Monday, much of that changed with an announcement removing any national policy, allowing local troops and councils to devise their own approaches to the participation of gays.
Ideally, the Boy Scouts would have acted more decisively, issuing a national standard, avoiding the possibility of local operations engaging in such discrimination. Perhaps that will come later. For now, the change deserves applause. It brings the organization closer to what the Girl Scouts long have understood, prohibiting discrimination, seeing sexual orientation as a private matter.
What spurred the sudden change? Key national board members pressed for reconsideration. National sponsors, such as Merck and UPS, broke financial ties. The Boy Scouts suffered no small embarrassment with revelations about sexual abuse by scout leaders, hardly bolstering the claim about needing to protect youth.
So much of Scouting wins admiration, the oath and law, the values of honor and character, of achievement and community. All of that has suffered as the organization has resisted change in the country as a whole, our deepening diversity. Now the Boy Scouts have begun to embrace what makes the country stronger, and promises the same for its troops and councils.