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Editorial: Boy Scouts of America must change policy

7:30 PM, Jan. 30, 2013  |  Comments
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The Boy Scouts of America on Monday signaled that it is considering removing its exclusion of gay Scouts and leaders.

Any policy change would be left up to the religious and civic groups that sponsor Boy Scout units because the BSA said it "would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents."

First of all, it's a good, if timid, first step. The organization's reassurance that it wouldn't "dictate a position" seems ironic since the BSA had no problem dictating to units, members and parents that Scouts and leaders could be excluded based on their sexual orientation.

Second, the move, though commendable, doesn't go far enough. Leaving the policy up to the sponsors to address the issue could still result in some Scouts and leaders being excluded.

For now, though, this is a step in the right direction for an organization with more than 2.6 million youths taking part in Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturers.

It's also somewhat surprising because in July the BSA reaffirmed its ban on gay Scouts and leaders.

Some critics have said changing the policy might make for uncomfortable situations at the annual National Jamboree and among Scouts and leaders on the local level.

They need to deal with it. The BSA currently gives Scouts youth protection training, requires parents to talk to their sons about how to be safe and requires all leaders go through youth protection training every two years.

The BSA can also provide Scouts and leaders the training needed to address questions about sexual orientation that might arise.

Many states have legalized gay marriage, and gay troops may serve in the military. The Boy Scouts of America would not be out of line in acknowledging this growing move toward acceptance.

In his inauguration address earlier this month, President Barack Obama reinforced that acceptance. "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well."

The Boy Scouts of America video extolling the attributes of its youth says a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent. Those are wonderful attributes and can be applied to all youth, regardless of whether they are straight or gay.

For many kids in Scouting, the pre-adolescent and adolescent years are stressful and confusing enough without an organization that offers them great opportunities for leadership and adventure making things even more stressful and confusing with an exclusion based on sexual orientation.

The BSA's national executive board is expected to discuss the change at its meeting next week. The board needs to step up and end the debate, which could be done quite simply by adopting a simple policy that says, "The Boys Scouts of America does not discriminate based on sexual orientation." Period. End of discussion.

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