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THE decision by the Boy Scouts of America to welcome openly gay boys into the program is a work in progress. The next appropriate step is to allow gay Scout leaders.

In the years leading up to the 61-percent vote by the organization’s National Council to change policy, it became clear how many gay boys had already thrived in scouting.

Gay young men who had achieved the rank of Eagle Scout were turning in their scouting paraphernalia in protest over BSA’s stubborn refusal to formally open its ranks.

The policy to include gay boys, effective Jan. 1, stirs a question that foreshadows more change. What is different about the 14-year-old working on badges, when he becomes a 20-something man who wants to be a scoutmaster?

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Scouting thrives with supportive families — parents who are willing to drive, assemble gear and wash a lot of funky clothes after a camping trip. Other moms and dads are willing lead the Cub Scout den or Boy Scout troop. Bless them.

Parental sexual orientation is irrelevant. The benchmarks are always a willingness to help, reliability and a keen interest in the welfare of the scouts.

The Boy Scouts will come to this conclusion, if only for enlightened self-interest. If scouting wants to survive and thrive, it will welcome those willing to share the workload, joys and responsibilities.

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