WE INTERRUPT coverage of tumult in Congress and the administration with two pieces of good news. Both reflect progress American society has made in recognizing the dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The White House announced Tuesday that, contrary to anonymous reports, the president will not reverse executive orders extending workplace protections to LGBT federal workers. The administration statement accurately and encouragingly recalled that Mr. Trump made a point of standing up for LGBT rights in his speech to the Republican National Convention last July, noting that he was “proud” to have done so.
If so, we hope and expect Mr. Trump will resist diluting existing protections, not simply decline to rip them up. He could even seek to advance the cause of LGBT civil rights, rather than just keep things as they are. Mr. Trump could, for example, back legislation to extend comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections to the LGBT community, a goal that many in Congress have been aiming at for years.
The White House announcement came a day after the Boy Scouts of America revealed that it will allow transgender boys to participate in the group’s premier programs, changing a decades-old policy that relied on the gender listed on birth certificates to one that recognizes the gender identity listed on Scouts’ application forms. The decision will no doubt be a tough one for some in the Scouting movement to accept, yet it was rooted in some of the organization’s core principles — the commitment to tolerance and diversity inherent in the Boy Scouts’ mission to impart life skills to young people who are growing into men. The Scouts now have the opportunity to show how a large and largely traditional organization can proactively adapt to changing times, with respect for views that continue to differ.
The Boy Scouts organization has not always been the fastest to accept changing mores. Its moves to accept gay Scouts and, after that, leaders came years after social acceptance of homosexuality had become mainstream. Its moves in the past may have been related to the threat of lawsuits hanging over the organization’s head. The hubbub over a trans boy being ejected from a New Jersey Cub Scout pack, meanwhile, played a role in the latest decision.
But the organization has had to account for the varied preferences of its diverse and dispersed collection of local Scouting organizations, many of them affiliated with religious groups, in an era of rapid culture change. The Boy Scouts have encountered stiff competition from conservative start-up Trail Life USA, whose chairman inflated worries about “youth protection” in a comment on the Scouts’ trans announcement to Fox News’s Todd Starnes.
The Scouts’ relatively quick and decisive move on the transgender issue came more easily and quickly than previous reforms. The Boy Scouts appear to have decided to rely on the goodwill of their participants to accept the decision with the maturity the organization preaches to Scouts. Altering top-line policy is just the first step, but it’s an encouraging one.
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