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THE Boy Scouts of America is working on a merit badge. The venerable organization will rethink its national membership restriction on sexual orientation.

The announcement this week was repeatedly qualified to note the policy change was under discussion. Scouting should welcome all interested Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and their families.

The new direction would have the indirect imprimatur of the national leadership. The change “would allow the religious, civic or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address the issue,” according to a Boy Scouts of America statement.

No local unit would be told how to proceed. “Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious values.” An estimated 70 percent of Scout troops have a church or religious affiliation.

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Inquiries to the Chief Seattle Council, serving Clallam, Jefferson, King, Kitsap and North Mason counties, were directed to a public-relations firm.

The council’s 30-page mission statement includes a proposal to develop a communication and training plan for inclusion, “such as religion, gender, race/ethnicity and ‘the constitutional question.’ ”

Presumably that goes to Scouting’s 2000 U.S. Supreme Court case that affirmed freedom of association and the right to exclude gays and lesbians.

Times change. Washington and other states have legalized same-sex marriage and civil unions flourish elsewhere. A coalition of national businesses is working to abolish the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Scouting is evidently thinking about the new families that enrich our culture. They can be a source of eager members and loyal leaders.

If the Boy Scouts’ national leadership allows local units to decide how to proceed, the Chief Seattle Council should be prepared to act.

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