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Tom Zirpoli: Boy Scouts catching up with the times

Here we go again. Another group is catching up with the times and accepting the fact that Americans are not all white, male, Christian or straight.

In this case, the Boy Scouts of America has faced up to its discrimination against boys who happen to be gay.

Last Thursday, the BSA voted to end its discrimination. Finally, when the scouts repeat the Boy Scout pledge, it will be more than words on paper.

After 103 years, the ban on gay boys in the Boy Scouts ended with a vote at the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, held in Texas of all places. The new policy reads that "No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone."

The policy change, which will go into effect January 1, 2014, was endorsed by BSA President Wayne Perry, who stated that gay boys should not be "denied the benefits of scouting."

Unfortunately, the BSA will maintain its ban on gay scout leaders. However, this too will change with time.

In fact, the Boy Scouts have always had gay members and gay scout leaders in most places across America. And in most cases, with the exception of the South and other conservative areas of our nation, they were accepted and included without question or discrimination.

Basically, the Boy Scouts have been practicing a "don't ask, don't tell" policy for years.

A majority of Americans supports the new policy. The problem is that 70 percent of the BSA sponsors are church-affiliated groups that continue to discriminate against gays. In Utah, for example, almost all of the Boy Scout troops are sponsored by Mormons.

As is the case for many children and adult clubs in America, membership in the Boys Scouts has declined by about 30 percent in the last decade. I doubt the new policy will change much in regards to membership trends.

Albert Mohler, president of a Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, recently asked, "How, exactly, are openly gay boys to be included in the activities of scouting? We are talking about boys who will now be expected to participate in everything from camping trips to travel with boys who are openly gay."

I guess Mohler doesn't realize that outside of the Scouts, our children already go to school with gays and travel on field trips with gays - including overnight trips. Does he think gay boys have been hiding in closets just waiting for the BSA's vote to come out and declare they are gay? Perhaps he is not aware of the gay men in his own Baptist church.

What Mohler also may not realize is that most children and adults don't care. Acceptance of gays in our schools and colleges is a non-issue with the exception of the most conservative places where discrimination is taught as part of the curriculum.

Our children are way ahead of us on this issue.

The folks who will continue to fight this new policy will be the same folks who were against gays serving in the military. They will ignore the fact that the military did not fall apart with the admission of blacks, women or gays.

And for those who now say that they will leave the Scouts because of this policy change, I say good riddance. Scouting will be a much better organization without you.

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