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Editorial: Scouts grow up on gay rights

In this July 28 2010 file phoprovided by Department Defense thousands Boy Scouts march with flags for playing national anthem

In this July 28, 2010 file photo provided by the Department of Defense, thousands of Boy Scouts march with flags for the playing of the national anthem during the Boy Scouts of America's 2010 National Jamboree at Ft. AP Hill, Va.

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Updated: March 2, 2013 6:55AM

It’s a start.

A big start.

The Boy Scouts of America, following the national tide of acceptance toward gays in American life, is likely to lift its ban on gays in scouting. The decision could come as soon as next week.

While a huge step forward, the policy change would be an incomplete victory.

The Boy Scouts is expected to lift its national ban against gay leaders and members, but the final decision would be left up to the religious, civic and educational groups that run Cub Scout packs and Boy Scouts troops across America.

Some 69 percent of those organizations are faith-based, with two of the top three largest being the Mormon and the Roman Catholic churches, accounting for about 30 percent of the nation’s 2.7 million scouts.

We respect the rights of those groups and others to hold true to their religious views. It’s a right the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in 2000, allowing the Boy Scouts to refuse gay members.

But America is turning toward broad acceptance of gays, with the impending Boy Scouts decision only the latest welcome development.

President Barack Obama supports gay marriage, as do 53 percent of Americans, according to a Gallup poll released in December. Nine states plus the District of Columbia allow for it.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation is enshrined in law and banned in the military.

It only makes sense to rid it from the most American of institutions, the Boy Scouts.

Conservative groups like the Family Research Council dismissed the possible change on gays, saying that the Scouts were capitulating to the “bullying of homosexual activists.”

As if gays were the only ones fighting this battle.

In fact, one of the main groups pushing for the Scouting change, in addition to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, is run by four straight Eagle Scouts.

“People said to us ‘start your own organization’” to replace the Boy Scouts, said Brad Hankins, campaign director for Scouts for Equality. “We say this is our organization.

“Being an Eagle Scout is part of our identity . . . At the end, you want to be proud of that. Being tied to a discriminatory organization doesn’t leave you feeling proud.”

Hankins also knows a more open and inclusive Boy Scouts is crucial to the organization’s future.

The ban has cost the Scouts corporate support, from the likes of Merck, Intel and UPS, and the opportunity to enroll not just gay scouts but thousands more who refuse to join an organization that discriminates.

The Boy Scouts aren’t capitulating. They are, like the rest of us aim to do, maturing and adjusting to a more inclusive modern world.

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