When President Harry Truman ended racial segregation in the military in 1948, he did not say certain units would welcome black troops while others would be free to stay all-white. He declared that integration would be universal.
When the Pentagon scrapped “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2011, it did not say some branches of the Armed Forces could have openly gay personnel, while others could bar them. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said discrimination would be banned, period.
In facing up to its own legacy of bias, the Boy Scouts of America is considering a less than all-American remedy. After years of criticism and withdrawn financial support, the organization said last week it might allow individual troops and troop sponsors to accept homosexuals as scouts and leaders.
The change could come as early as this week. Top leaders of Toledo area scouting say they don’t object to the new policy. Yet this incremental move toward equality is only modest progress for an organization that otherwise espouses laudable values.
It’s hard to place much stock in the Boy Scouts’ semi-acceptance of gays. For years, various corners of society — academia, corporations, religions — have stopped paying attention to sexual orientation. But it took declining enrollment, loss of dollars, and scorn for scouting executives to get the message that they were out of step with the mainstream.
Let’s hope the Boy Scouts allow troops to open the door to boys and leaders who happen to be gay. With any luck, that door will swing wide at every troop and pack in America.