It had to be a painful decision, but not only were the Scouts on the wrong side of history and human rights, but heading toward the wrong side of solvency. Big donors, including the Merck Co. Foundation, Intel Foundation, UPS and United Way, have stopped funding the Scouts because of its policy on gays.
The Boys Scouts of American strives to build character -- young men who are "trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent." It's impossible to instill those qualities while at the same time making it clear that discrimination against some boys is acceptable.
The change came suddenly. Only last summer, the Scouts had reaffirmed its policy against gay Scouts and Scout leaders. In 2000, it won a Supreme Court ruling on the question. Now, the organization says, that as early as this spring, it may abolish the national ban.
The plan going forward would be to vest that decision in individual Scouting organizations. It is, in that regard, a half a loaf, but big changes often come in increments. The new policy acknowledges that many troops are sponsored by churches, civic groups and schools, some of which may hesitate to accept gay Scouts and leaders.
They shouldn't. If Americans have learned anything during the past several years, it is that gays are their neighbors, relatives, colleagues and friends. Homosexuality is a fact of life, not a condition or moral failing.
There will be resistance. Southern Baptists, who consider homosexuality a sin, are already suggesting that they will support other boys' organizations rather than the Boy Scouts. Let them go.
They'll come around, eventually, just as they did on slavery, Jim Crow and interracial marriage. Southern fundamentalists found biblical authority for all of those offenses -- talk about sinning -- but later thought better of those positions.
In the meantime, the Boy Scouts of America is leaning away from an outdated and indefensible policy. With that, it will be able to serve a larger population and retain the support of those who find it hard to tolerate discrimination.
-- The Buffalo News