Big Brothers under congressional scrutiny

BY Advocate.com Editors

November 21 2002 12:00 AM ET

Several Republican congressmen asked President Bush on Tuesday to pressure Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to abandon its policy of prohibiting antigay discrimination in its mentoring programs. Bush is an honorary cochairman of the organization. The nine representatives, led by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.), said the national antidiscrimination rule forces local Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliates to accept gay and lesbian mentors without giving any say to parents. "Many of these kids are emotionally fragile and desperate for attention and affirmation from an adult of their own gender," the congressmen wrote. "The new policy ignores the psychological research and common sense. As a general rule of thumb, Big Brothers doesn't match up adult men with teenage girls. Obviously that would set up a risky situation that could lead to sexual abuse."

Winnie Stachelberg, political director for the Washington, D.C.-based gay rights group Human Rights Campaign, said sexual orientation does not affect a person's ability to mentor an at-risk youth and is not a factor in abuse. "Representative Tancredo and his associates are spreading misinformation in an attempt to smear innocent members of the gay and lesbian community," Stachelberg said in a statement.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said the president had not received the letter and could not comment. A spokeswoman for Big Brothers Big Sisters could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening. In addition to Tancredo, the letter was signed by representatives Chris Smith of New Jersey, Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania, Ernest Istook and John Sullivan of Oklahoma, John Hostettler of Indiana, Bob Schaffer of Colorado, Jim Ryun of Kansas, and Brian Kerns of Indiana.

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