President Obama opposes the recently affirmed Boy Scouts policy of banning gay members, according to a statement from the White House sent in response to a Blade inquiry.
“The President believes the Boy Scouts is a valuable organization that has helped educate and build character in American boys for more than a century,” White House spokesperson Shin Inouye said in the statement. “He also opposes discrimination in all forms, and as such opposes this policy that discriminates on basis of sexual orientation.”
In a follow-up email, Inouye said Obama won’t resign or relinquish his position as honorary president of the Boy Scouts as result of this position.
The Boy Scouts of America affirmed its gay ban last month after a two-year review of the policy.
Deron Smith, a Boy Scouts spokesperson, said his organization respects the opinion of the president and believes good people can personally disagree on the issue.
“The Boy Scouts of America respects the opinions of President Obama and appreciates his recognition that Scouting is a valuable organization,” Smith said. “We believe that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to accomplish the common good.”
Among the organizations working to lift the ban is the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, which has been championing the issue after lesbian den leader Jennifer Tyrrell was expelled from the organization ostensibly because of her sexual orientation.
Herndon Graddick, GLAAD’s president, responded to the White House statement by saying numerous political leaders have come out against the ban prohibiting openly gay people from being in the Boy Scouts.
“Our nation’s leaders from across religions and political persuasions have joined hundreds of thousands of Americans in speaking out against the blatant discrimination that the Boy Scouts of America teaches young adults today,” Graddick said. “It’s clear that this outdated policy will be changing in the future. How long will the Boy Scouts continue to bully young gay Americans into hiding who they are and hurt children of gay parents by denying their parents an opportunity to participate in their children’s lives?”
Zach Wahls, the co-founder of Scouts for Equality who gained notoriety for speaking out against the repeal of marriage equality in Iowa, praised Obama.
“I couldn’t agree more with President Obama about how important the BSA is to this country’s young men and am proud to have his support,” Wahls said. “The fact that the Presidential candidates of both major American parties have come together to oppose the BSA’s anti-gay policy in the most polarized political climate since Reconstruction speaks volumes about both the moral validity and critical importance of ending the ban. It’s no surprise that the leader of the free world is willing to advocate for a little more freedom within the BSA.”
Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign told the Associated Press on Saturday that Romney holds the same position on admitting gays to the Boy Scouts that he did in 1994, when he said, “I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue. I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Opponents of the ban have since used Romney’s statement to denounce the Boy Scouts policy.
“[Mitt Romney's] leadership is to be commended, and we hope he can set an example of how people with differing religious beliefs can come together to support the Boy Scouts of America’s mission to serve our communities and develop tomorrow’s leaders, regardless of sexual orientation,” said Zach Wahls, co-founder of Scouts for Equality, in a statement.
NOTE: This post has been updated to include more reactions.