1. Opinion

Editorial: A step forward for Boy Scouts

Published May 24, 2013

Progress rarely arrives perfectly packaged. The vote by the national council of the Boy Scouts of America to allow openly gay boys to participate in the venerable organization reflects the country's rapidly increasing acceptance of homosexuals. The decision reflects significant progress and reflects well on an organization deeply woven into the fabric of so many families and communities.

No media were allowed inside a convention center in Grapevine, Texas, last week as more than 1,400 volunteer members of the Boy Scouts national council convened for two days. But published reports point to a group that came together for a frank conversation about an issue that could no longer be ignored.

In the end, more than 60 percent of the national council voted to end the ban on gay troop members. Such significant support on such a difficult issue for the Boy Scouts sends a powerful message.

Such an outcome seemed unlikely just five months ago, when Boy Scouts leaders postponed a previous vote amid growing turmoil and then commissioned a poll of membership on the topic. Many prohibitionists had counted on the strong religious connection to scouting — 70 percent of all Boy Scout troops are sponsored by religious groups — to continue to insist on the politics of exclusion. But that bloc is not monolithic. Last month, the Mormon Church, which organizes one out of every four troops, constituting 15 percent of the Scout population, signaled it would support the change. So did the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches and the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.

Last week's decision to change the membership requirements of one of the nation's most recognized groups came after broad discussion and thoughtful consideration by those adults and leaders most involved in its activities. Left unresolved is whether those gay scouts will be embraced once they reach adulthood as Scout leaders. But this decision affirms that the nation's growing support for fellow citizens who are homosexuals will continue. Opening the doors of scouting to all boys is real progress.