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Bessent: Boy Scouts on the right path, but need to go further

Jennifer Tyrrell of Bridgeport, Ohio, a Cub Scout

Jennifer Tyrrell of Bridgeport, Ohio, a Cub Scout den leader who was kicked out in 2012 for being openly gay, embraces her son Cruz Burns, 8, before a news conference at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas. (May 23, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

The decision by the Boy Scouts of America to allow openly gay members for the first time in its 103-year history marks laudable progress for the venerable organization.

Implementing the enlightened new policy after Jan. 1, 2014, will provide a real-world lesson in character development for the group's 2.7 million young members.

Unfortunately the scouts left some work on the contentious issue undone. Homosexual adults are still barred from participating as scout leaders. The 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts of America's National Council didn't revisit that policy. They should, and when they do it ought to be scrapped too. 

This is clearly a sensitive issue for the private youth organization. Abandoning the ban on gay members was the right thing to do, but the change could be disruptive. Officials had to weigh the impact that upending tradition, however discriminatory, would have on the decisions of young people and their families considering whether to become or remain members. 

But Scout officials discovered a generational divide on the issue within its ranks, just as there is nationally. Based on a comprehensive internal "listening exercise," they concluded that attitudes related to gay relationships have changed rapidly over the last three years in favor of greater acceptance. 

A majority of adults in the scouting community still favor the old policy of excluding open homosexuals, but that opinion has lost ground over time. And a majority of teen members and parents younger than 50 support the new, more inclusive policy. 

That bodes well for the future of scouting. This may be a happy instance where a good deed actually does go unpunished.