The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is set to vote Wednesday on whether to scrap its organizational ban on gay membership and to leave decisions on openly gay members up to individual troops. As The Post noted Friday in an editorial, “This cautious plan is not exactly bold moral leadership.” What James Dale proposed on MSNBC’s “Hardball” last week — the BSA should not allow discrimination anywhere in its ranks — makes more sense.
“You can’t have children in one troop thinking that discrimination is acceptable and scouts in a neighboring troop to think that discrimination is unacceptable,” said Dale. “The anti-gay policy was top-down. I think that nondiscrimination needs to be top-down as well.”
Dale was an assistant scoutmaster and an Eagle Scout until he was booted from scouting because he came out as gay at age 19. That was in 1990. He then filed suit to be reinstated. In 2000, the case made it to the Supreme Court, which decided that the Boy Scouts had a First Amendment right to deny membership to gays.
Since then, sponsors have come under intense pressure to get BSA to change its policy. A grass-roots coalition of parents of gay scouts and gay parents who want to be involved in their communities by participating in scouting has added to the clamor for change.
Meanwhile, according to a Reuters story today, “Youth membership in the Boy Scouts has dropped 21 percent since 2000 to nearly 2.7 million. Adult leader membership has fallen 14 percent to just over 1 million, and the number of units has declined 12.6 percent to 108,971.”
No matter what the BSA decides Wednesday, its intolerable ban on gay members is on the way out. The country has changed. And it has changed on the issue of homosexuality, in particular. In an example of just how times have changed, when asked yesterday in a pre-Super Bowl interview if gays should be allowed to participate in scouting, President Obama simply said, “Yes.” He went on to say that “gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life.”
That’s a no-brainer position the Boy Scouts of America would be wise to adopt. As Dale told me today, “Scouting executives should look to our president to see what it means to lead.”
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