U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder criticized the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday night for its continued ban on openly gay scoutmasters, saying the organization’s policy “preserves and perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes.”
During the keynote speech at Lambda Legal’s annual dinner in D.C., the nation’s top lawyer compared the Boy Scouts’ policy to the now repealed law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” calling the ban on adult leaders “a relic of an age of prejudice and insufficient understanding.”
“Today, courageous lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals routinely put their lives on the line as members of America’s armed services,” Holder said. “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.”
Just over a year ago, the Boy Scouts lifted its policy prohibiting gay youths from participating in the organization, but retained the ban on gay scout masters. Although LGBT advocates at the time praised the organization for the move, they also said they looked forward to the day when openly gay adults could take part in the 104-year-old institution.
The national president of the Boy Scouts, Robert Gates, addressed the issue of gay scout masters in a speech to the scouting community last month, saying he would “oppose any effort” to re-open the issue during his tenure at the organization.
“I believe strongly that to re-open the membership issue or try to take last year’s decision to the next step would irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement — with the high likelihood neither side would subsequently survive on its own,” Gates said.
Prior to assuming his position as president of the Boy Scouts, Gates led the efforts as defense secretary to implement open service in the wake of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.
Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin commended Holder for criticizing the Boy Scouts prohibition on openly gay adult leaders.
“Attorney General Holder is yet again demonstrating his unwavering commitment to equality for LGBT people, and we are grateful that he has added his voice to the chorus of Americans who condemn the Boy Scouts’ discriminatory policy,” Griffin said. “Parents and adults of good moral character, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to volunteer their time to mentor the next generation of Americans.”