For the second time in just a few days, major institutions have made headway in making the nation a more tolerant, inclusive place. Americans should be proud that more barriers to equity are being torn down.
Last week, the U.S. military lifted its ban against women serving in combat positions. And Monday, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) said it planned to end its longstanding ban on gays in the organization.
Minnesota's largest Boy Scouts chapter helped pave the way for the change last summer when its leaders said gays and lesbians were welcome among its troops and staff -- despite the national policy. In July, the Northern Star Council, with 75,000 Scouts in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, lifted its ban in anticipation of the issue coming up on the national board's agenda.
Clearly, BSA's leaders are in sync with the changing times. Polls show that a majority of Americans want equal rights and treatment for gays and lesbians. Most of us understand that people of either sexual orientation can and do serve admirably in positions that involve working with children. Members of the GLBT community are no more or less likely to engage in improper behavior than their straight peers.
The new policy may not end discrimination in all Scout groups because the BSA is allowing local chapters to independently decide whether to admit gays. But the national decision sets the right tone and is an encouraging step in the right direction. No longer will local groups have the stamp of approval from headquarters to practice discrimination and intolerance.
Together, the new scouting and military policies are worth celebrating as welcome signs of social progress.
An editorial of the Star Tribune, Minneapolis.