THERE ARE gay Boy Scouts earning merit badges and the respect of their fellow members in troops across the country, and there will be as long as the organization exists. The question is how honest they can be about it. Next week the Boy Scouts of America will reconsider its long-held restriction on gay members. The national organization’s current policy is akin to the military’s defunct “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, barring membership “to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission” of the group. A policy of this sort has been the Boy Scouts’ avowed position since at least 1978, and a 5-to-4 Supreme Court majority deemed it legal in 2000. In other words, it is up to the organization to end its official discrimination, and it’s long past time. The Boy Scouts’ national board will vote Wednesday on whether to replace the ban with a policy allowing groups that sponsor local troops to decide whether to admit gay members. Churches or other civic groups that do not tolerate homosexuality could still require troops they sponsor to discriminate. Others could be more welcoming. Boys and their parents, meanwhile, could find a troop that best fits their views.
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