We urge the Boy Scouts of America to change its longstanding policy banning gays as Scouts and leaders and today, enact a planned compromise on the issue, which would allow sponsors of troops to decide whether to accept gays in the local affiliates.
This is not a perfect solution to the issue. It may lead to a host of battles with local affiliates across the nation. However, it takes pressure off the national organization and allows autonomy of choice among its many affiliates. Churches that sponsor Scouting, including The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, could maintain their exclusion of gays. Other affiliates could choose to admit gay Scouts and leaders.
The proposed change, according to a BSA spokesman, would be as follows: "The Boy Scouts would, not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents."
This is a policy that is badly needed as the Boy Scouts of America deals with a host of problems related to its policies that bar gay members from out-in-the-open participation. As a result of court cases, the Scouts have been forced to release files from the past that detail sexual abuse claims against Scout leaders. Also, organizations, including UPS and Merck, have halted donations due to the Scouts' exclusionary policy. There have been reductions in the number of overall Scouts in recent years.
Allowing the various groups, religious, civic and otherwise, to make their own decisions on who is allowed in Scouting provides a values choice by the organization's sponsors. These sponsors would not be forced to act in any manner that is opposed to their morality. In our opinion, time seems to be on the side of gay rights. If the Scouts have the courage to enact this change, it will be positive evidence of a more tolerant society.