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Boy Scouts take one giant step forward

Last Thursday, 1,400 members of the National Council of the Boys Scouts of America voted to end a ban on allowing homosexual youths to join the ranks of the Boy Scouts.

It is impressive — and a bit surprising — that about 61 percent of the voting members agreed it was time to do away with this policy of exclusion. Indeed, this vote, which would have been virtually unthinkable just a few years ago, shows the amazing alteration in perceptions the nation has been undergoing.

The basic message of the Boy Scouts’ resolution is this: “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”

So simple, yet so revolutionary.

“Our mission is to serve every kid,” said BSA President Wayne Perry after the vote. “No matter how you feel about this issue, kids are better off in Scouting.”

Although we question why gay adults will continue to be barred from serving as Scout leaders, this vote represents an important step forward. Discrimination is not healthy in a free society, and the slow but steady move from discrimination of all types is a hallmark of our democracy.

Another reassuring factor related to this vote is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church), the Methodist Church and the Catholic Church — which actively support many of the approximately 2.7 million Boy Scouts and more than 1 million adult volunteers around the country — did not pull sponsorships of their respective Boy Scout troops, as some speculated could happen.

On the contrary. The Mormons, for example, reacted with welcome wisdom and pragmatism in swiftly announcing that the church would continue its association with BSA.

This controversy reminds us of the months leading up to Sept. 20, 2011, when the ban on gays serving openly in the military officially ended. There were dire predictions of troops not re-enlisting, recruitment plummeting and morale eroding as military leaders discussed possible scenarios with allowing homosexuals to serve. Yet these worst-case forecasts have not come to pass.

We suspect the dire projections of some groups that last week’s BSA vote will corrupt millions of American youths will similarly be unfounded.

Our nation’s efforts to root out and eliminate discrimination and to foster tolerance are inspiring, and provide us with one more reason why we are proud to be Americans.

Looking back at our history, it is difficult to believe that racial discrimination was once so engrained in our culture that even through the dark days of World War II, blacks were not allowed to serve with white troops.

It took an executive order by President Harry Truman in 1948 to ensure blacks were given equal treatment and equal opportunity in the U.S. military, although the Marine Corps was not fully integrated until 1960. And in another stark example, from our contemporary perspective it is almost beyond imagination that women were not allowed to vote until 1920.

No doubt, at some point in the not-so-distant future, bans on allowing homosexuals to serve in the military; restrictions against gay marriage; and yes, stipulations that gays cannot serve as leaders of the Boy Scouts, will also seem absurd.



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