On the one hand, Kentucky's Freemasons voted overwhelmingly to reject a proposal which would have banned publicly open gay men from being allowed to join or participate in Freemasonry. In Georgia, the Grand Lodge met and the voting members upheld Grand Master Douglas McDonald's edict outlawing homosexuality, and as Chris Hodapp put it, "threw in fornication for good measure." It is quite likely that had the general membership been able to vote there, Georgia would have followed Kentucky's example.
While the events have agitated mainstream Masonry's intellectuals and Blogosphere (often though not without exception one and the same) and would have likely been a source of embarrassment for Freemasonry if the general public actually paid any attention to Freemasonry anymore, the real significance of these events lie in an unanticipated, and even for the majority of Freemasonry's intellectuals, unwelcome side effect.
The ancient rearguard, the old fellows within Freemasonry, are admittedly out of touch with the modern world, and in attempting to ban any presence of Gays in Freemasonry, were demonstrating their sophisticated understanding of US society of the 1940s. They thrust the matter into the forefront and forced the mostly younger and more liberal segment of the membership who are not yet on death's door, to visibly and vocally object. They had no other real alternative. In fairness to them they fairly uniformly objected to such a blatantly gender biased policy.
However, any rational individual will see the discrepancy here. For many years, indeed since the mid 1700s, that version of Freemasonry which evolved under the thrall of London's influence has denied the right of women to participate in Freemasonry. Although women did have that right and did and still do participate in Freemasonry as it developed outside the control of London's ideologues, what has come to be called "mainstream" Freemasonry in the US, has banned women.
Those mainstream voices representing the intellectual segments of "mainstream" Freemasonry in the US, who so vocally objected to the exclusion of Gays from their form of Freemasonry have just delivered a fatal blow to their own support of the ban on women.
It was not their intention, and they will no doubt begin to develop a few sophisticated, but mostly unsophisticated denials. However, in voicing their objection to the banning of one gender related group, they have effectively invalidated the arguments supporting the banning of any gender related groups. In supporting the acceptance of Gays in Freemasonry, they have pulled the apron out from under the ban on women. To mix my metaphors, but totally in a way which is in keeping with Masonic symbolism, they will no doubt attempt to place the skeleton back in the closet, but once it is out, there really can be no going back.
That does not mean that mainstream Freemasonry in the US will suddenly embrace the admission of women into their ranks. It will no doubt, if my familiarity with it has provided me with any accurate insight, go down fighting, even until death. However, it will from this point on, hand the opposition to such a ban the ammunition to effectively deprive any mainstream Freemason with any shred of intellectual or ethical credibility, if they ever had any (and I maintain they never did) if they try to support an institution which refuses women admission.
Of course, as a private organization, as Masons themselves are so happy to point out, they can do as they wish. What has just happened however is that they have just made it that much less likely that mainstream Freemasonry has any chance of reversing a decades old decline that threatens them with extinction. The hypocrisy has been brought out into the light in such a way that it will be hard for any Freemason of conscience to ignore.
Those who have a conscience will have to think long and hard about whether they will capitulate to convenience and habit, or live up to what they claim are their own ethical standards.
The rest of us in that other Masonic world, will be watching with interest. And although this post will no doubt be met with hostility from mainstream circles, the rest of us, while expecting the same rationalizations and justifications that allow mainstream Masons to look the other way while many jurisdictions continue to practice racial segregation "off the books", far from being antagonistic, will watch with hope.