Instead of accepting the gay-okay-till-21 recommendation, here’s my hope: that the Scout assembly at large will instead find a way to move forward on the earlier trial-balloon policy. A few months back, the Scouts let out the suggestion that perhaps each troop could decide its policy on gay members and leaders for itself. That was, I thought, a brilliant compromise, a kind of federalism that would allow each troop to remain in sync with its community’s attitudes.
Such a policy would make it possible for individuals locally to lobby and educate their neighbors and friends. Mormon-sponsored troops could live by their own strictures, while the Unitarians or some other group could independently sponsor a gay-welcoming troop across town. That policy would allow the Scouts’ ban to fade slowly, along with antigay attitudes, until they were ready to flush it away as an embarrassment. In the meantime, yes, individual gay kids would be marooned in hostile troops as they realize that they might be, you know, like that—but no matter the policy, you know that those troops (and the families that are putting their kids in them) are not yet going to be welcoming, no matter what the Scouts’ official policy might be.