Last week, a deeply divided Boy Scouts of America (BSA) opted to delay its decision about whether to admit gays into its ranks until May. The decision, which I recently discussed with the Wall Street Journal, should come as no surprise. The delay is the first line of defense against an internal bloodletting. In the short term, delay allows a fragile coalition to buy time to forge a compromise by acquiring new information and considering fresh proposals that will help the organization stay together.
Unfortunately, that happy outcome is implausible or perhaps even impossible. The issue of gays in the Boy Scouts, like gays in the military, has been extensively and intensely debated for years. There is no doubt that the public momentum on this question has shifted in favor of an expansion of gay rights, which is evidenced by the number of states that approved the legalization of gay marriage by electoral ballot recently, and, of course, by the recent statements of President Barack Obama, the honorary head of the Scouts.
The President put the point as follows: “I think that my attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life.” Fortunately, in this instance, the President just weighed in with his own position, without seeking to use government force against the Scouts. More on this later.
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