The Boy Scouts of America won’t soon see the end of the wrenching debate over its longstanding policy on the participation of those who are openly gay. The organization did move in the right direction last week, 60 percent of its roughly 1,400 volunteer leaders declaring that no youth may be denied membership “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
As the vote indicates, many involved in Scouting remain vehemently opposed to the change, insisting they will break from the organization as a result. No doubt, arguments will flare again as the even more divisive question arises, about allowing openly adult gay leaders to participate.
The difficulty in holding to the traditional policy is that the world around the Boy Scouts is changing, prejudices and misunderstandings breaking down. For the organization to continue making its valuable contribution, one that benefits communities as whole, it must adapt.
It no longer can cling to the incongruity: a young man exemplary in the eyes of Scouting — until it is discovered that he is gay. That seems so at odds with the core values of the organization, with what appeals and what has led Scouting to endure. The hope is, this moment will lead to further coming to terms with changing attitudes. Scouting is too important not to be fully part.