Scouts must change its policy on gays

Boy Scouts, their rules decree, must be "trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent."

What they can't be is homosexual.

Last week the online social reform group presented the Boy Scouts of America with a petition signed by more than 275,000 people urging the reinstatement of a lesbian den leader from Ohio who it says was kicked out because of her sexual orientation.

Among those presenting the petition during the Scouts' national meeting in Orlando, Fla., was Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, a college student raised by a same-sex couple and author of "My Two Moms: Lessons of Love, Strength, and What Makes a Family."

This newspaper supports Mr. Wahls and the other petitioners. It's time for the 102-year-old youth organization to join the 21st century.

At a time when gays can serve in the military and get married in a half dozen states including Connecticut, it seems ludicrous to attempt to enforce such an archaic and discriminatory restriction.

The Scouts' anti-homosexual stance may be rooted in the mistaken notion that predatory gays are forever imposing their same-sex lifestyle on unsuspecting boys, and that the only way to prevent that from happening is to keep them far away. If simply banning homosexuals eliminated such behavior, then the Catholic Church wouldn't have had so many problems involving priests and altar boys.

A more realistic approach would be to acknowledge that in an organization with 2.7 million youth members and more than 1 million adult volunteers, the odds are good that quite a few are gay, and that a mature, inclusive approach would be to respect those with different orientations.

Though the Boy Scouts, in accepting the petition, promised to review their policy, don't expect change any time soon.

At best the Scouts won't consider the proposal at least until next year's annual meeting.

Not surprisingly this is not the first challenge to the Scouts' policy. Over the years several groups and individuals have made similar entreaties, and in 2000 one lawsuit went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ultimately allowed the Scouts to maintain their policy.

This newspaper respects the rights of private organizations to establish their own rules and policies. But because Scouts so often participate in public activities and use public facilities they should abide by the public's anti-discrimination laws.

Otherwise, more adults and youngsters should exercise their own freedom when deciding whether to join a biased institution.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.


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