The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Rave

May 31, 2013

Scout vote resets a road to reform

As many have pointed out with greater and lesser vigor, it would have made sense for the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America to have completely revised its membership policy to accept both youth Souts and adult volunteers, regardless of sexual orientation.

First, the topic of sexuality is so marginal to the actual scouting experience for youths that it bewilders most of them why it is a sticking point.

Second, the notion that young people need to be protected is true regardless of orientation among leaders. That can be and has been effectively addressed through rules for behavior and supervision.

Third, an organization that positions itself as a character-builder surely can build the kind of character that at least withstands, probably accepts or even embraces variety and diversity within its own species.

Of course, Boy Scouting's bi-polar decision -- accepting gay youths and rejecting gay adults -- has little to do with activity, safety or character.

It is about money and timing.

The nation is in the midst of a rapid, but incomplete, emotional and generational change with respect to same-sex orientation. Scouting is an organization long and well served by ritual and tradition, which naturally attracts supporters who are unlikely to be swayed by fad or fashion.

They may, however, see the subject in a different light if it were framed differently -- in a way that allowed everyone to reunify around a point of agreement.

The national council's policy change shifts the subject in that direction. By accept young people into scouting, but barring adults, the issue is no longer discrimination based on sexual orientation, which is legal. It is now discrimination based on age, which is not.

That shift appears to be intentional. The policy seems to open up an entirely new avenue for appeal and challenge, possibly a signal from Scout leadership that the organization may not be able to resolve its differences from within, but welcomes a nudge from elsewhere.

That may be the best available reading of the vote. Incomplete as the policy change appeared, it was change that put the organization in position to resolve this matter with the least amount of internal turmoil.

This is interpretative, but that may reflect the sincere goal among our local scout council and Scout leaders who want to resolve this matter properly and get back to living and working together in a united way.

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