If the Boy Scouts of America goes ahead this week and allows openly gay leaders and boys into its fold, it will be only a half-step toward full equality, and may not be enough to placate disaffected donors and parents, or stem the shrinkage in the ranks of the 103-year-old organization.
Adopting a policy permitting civic and religious groups to decide for themselves whether to welcome gay boys and adult leaders into the troops they sponsor would be a seismic shift that not long ago would have been judged heretical. Should the BSA national board proceed, it should be counted as progress welcome, if belated.
But let us be clear. This policy would fall grievously short of the unqualified acceptance that simple fairness dictates and that the Boy Scouts will eventually be compelled to grant. That is, if the BSA, with its roots planted in the 20th century, hopes to remain viable in the 21st.