The Boy Scouts of America’s policy of continuing to bar gay adults from serving as leaders “only preserves and perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a speech at a Lambda Legal event last night.
“Like ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ it’s a relic of an age of prejudice and insufficient understanding,” Holder said at a Lambda Legal reception in Washington, D.C., according to a press release from the organization. “Today, courageous lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals routinely put their lives on the line as members of America's armed services. They inspire us, they protect us, and they defend us. And if these men and women are fit for military service, then surely they are fit to mentor, to teach, and to serve as role models for the leaders of future generations.”
The BSA this year began allowing openly gay young people to be members, but it retained its ban on gay adults. Former Defense secretary Robert Gates, who became president of the Boy Scouts last month, has said he favors lifting the ban, but he does not want to reopen the issue. BSA officials are on record as saying adult leaders will be dismissed only if they publicly announce that they are gay. In one case this year, the group dropped its affiliation with a Seattle-area church that had sponsored a Scout troop because the church refused to dismiss an openly gay scoutmaster.
In his speech, “Holder did not announce any legal action against the Boy Scouts,” notes a report from the Los Angeles Times Washington bureau. “A Supreme Court decision 14 years ago said the Scouts, as a private entity, had a right to discriminate against gays.”
Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith responded to Holder’s remarks with a statement saying, “We recognize there are many opinions on these matters,” the Times reports. He added, “The Boy Scouts of America believes that to disagree does not mean to disrespect; we remain focused on delivering the nation’s foremost youth development program.”