Today NBC News reports that leaders within the Boy Scouts of America are “close to ending” the organization’s longtime ban on openly gay members and leaders. Individuals close to the group acknowledge that they are “actively considering an end” to the formal ban and moving to allow local troops to decide on their own whether they want to admit gay and lesbian scouts and scoutmasters.
This would be a major change for an organization that built its reputation on traditionalism. And it would certainly prove controversial within the larger scouting community, which was rocked by the BSA’s poor response to its own child abuse scandal in 2012.
It would also go against recent developments. The BSA re-affirmed the ban last July, and just this weekend a local Cub Scouts pack revised gay-friendly language on its website under pressure from the larger organization.
The theory for this new approach holds that certain local factions would be free to continue banning gay members, thereby giving families the power to choose the groups that best represent their belief sets. While many continue to protest the BSA’s exclusion of openly gay individuals, we have no doubt that some longtime supporters would not be happy to see the ban end (which explains leaders’ clear desire for a “flexible” solution).
Public opinion has shifted decisively in favor of gay marriage, and our country now has more openly gay people in positions of power than ever before. The Boy Scouts will have to change at some point unless the group wants its membership to decline dramatically. But how can the organization most effectively adjust to this societal shift?