In Harsh Criticism, Attorney General Eric Holder Slams Boy Scouts’ Ban on Gay Scout Leaders

by Charles Joughin

"Like 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,' it’s a relic of an age of prejudice and insufficient understanding.”

WASHINGTON – Tonight Attorney General Eric Holder will harshly condemn a Boy Scouts of America (BSA) policy that prohibits gays and lesbians from serving as Scout Leaders.  While the group’s National Council recently voted to end a longstanding ban on gay youth in Scouting, it left in place a policy that bars gay and lesbian adults, including Scouts who reach the age of 18 and parents of Scouts, from participating. Holder’s severe criticism, set to be delivered at an event hosted by Lambda Legal, marks the first time the attorney general will have spoken about his opposition to the BSA’s discriminatory policy. 

“The Boy Scouts’ discriminatory policy only serves to reinforce the horrible message LGBT youth hear every day: you’re not good enough,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president Chad Griffin.  “The Boy Scouts believe that, once you turn 18, you should be banished from the proud tradition of Scouting if you’re gay. Tonight, 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. 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.”

HRC has long advocated for BSA to eliminate its discriminatory bans on gay Scouts and Scout Leaders. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation strengthened the criteria for its Corporate Equality Index (CEI), which scores American businesses on their policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality. To receive a perfect score in the future, companies must prohibit philanthropic giving to non-religious organizations that have a written policy of anti-gay discrimination, or permit its chapters, affiliates, or troops to do so.  HRC also collected and delivered over 225,000 petition signatures from Americans calling for the BSA to end its anti-gay policies.

Last month former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, now the volunteer president of the Boy Scouts of America, stated he would have supported expanding the organization’s policy change last year to include allowing openly gay Scout Leaders, but added, “I fully accept the decision that was democratically arrived at by 1,500 volunteers from across the entire country.”  He went on to say in his prepared remarks that reopening the issue now could "irreparably fracture and perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in the movement -- with the high likelihood neither side would subsequently survive on its own."  Secretary Gates oversaw the end of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred openly gay people from serving in the military. 

As part of his prepared remarks, Attorney General Holder acknowledged that “courageous lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals routinely put their lives on the line as members of America’s armed services.”  It should be noted that brave transgender Americans are also serving their country in the military, but are not able to do so openly.  HRC will continue working to ensure every that every qualified individual can serve regardless of their gender identity.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.


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