In the face of the religious right’s uproar over the move by the Boy Scouts of America to allow local troops to decide whether or not to continue barring gay boys/adult volunteers, the group has now delayed any move until later this year. But as Lillian Cunningham writes in the Washington Post‘s On Leadership column:
If the BSA wishes to hold onto its core mission, which is precisely to instill common values, then it needs to decide on those values at a national level. Right now, what it is actually debating is whether to abdicate that responsibility. …
The BSA has focused too much on its followers of the moment, not its followers of the future. This holds whether you believe they should keep or lift the ban on gays. Do you want followers who are anti-gay? Then keep the national ban, and be willing to give up money from companies that don’t share your view. But do you want followers who are inclusive? Then you need to have a national policy of tolerance and be brave enough to let those people and organizations walk away who don’t want the future you want.
In the short term, the BSA may have found a way to duck out of a complicated situation, but at what cost? This lack of leadership, whether by delaying the decision or pushing the decision down the organization, says the BSA is willing to cut out its own heart.
I see her point, but I’m willing to accept something less than perfect (the BSA adopting a national policy of nondiscrimination) in favor of what may actually be obtainable (letting troops decide for themselves). Smaller steps often pave the way to more comprehensive change, even if those steps smack of compromise and moral equivocation.
Domestic partnerships set the stage for marriage equality; if we demanded full marriage rights from the start, the nation (and even liberal blue states) wouldn’t have had a chance to overcome fears about legal recognition of our relationships. Now, the point has been passed where we need to continue settling for less the legal equality on the marriage front.
Compare this with progressives’ refusal to allow the federal Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to go forward without covering transgendered people, although there were votes to pass the bill with an end to sexual orientation discrimination. (ENDA’s value is debatable, but it has been a key goal of LGBT activists). Refusing to limit ENDA to what was obtainable, however, left it dead in the water, even when the Democrats had large majorities in both houses. Sometimes standing on principle just leaves you standing still.