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US attorney-general criticizes Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy

Eric Holder calls stance ‘relic of an age of prejudice’

US Attorney-General Eric Holder has criticized the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) for maintaining a policy that discriminates against gay adult leaders, saying it’s a “relic of an age of prejudice and insufficient understanding,” Lambda Legal says.

Holder, a feature speaker at the LGBT civil rights organization’s 14th annual Washington, DC, reception, said the continuation of the policy by an iconic American institution “only preserves and perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes.”

He added, “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.”  

Last May, the BSA voted to lift a ban on gay youth but kept in place its policy of excluding openly gay adults. While the move was hailed in some quarters as a long-awaited breakthrough, others say the scope of the change means gay youth will eventually be told theyll no longer be welcome, when they turn 18.

Robert Gates, former secretary of defence and current president of the Boy Scouts, has said that while he is in favour of making further policy changes, revisiting the issue at this time could lead to a “permanent split” in BSA ranks, NBC reports.

Gates presided over the 2011 repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which allowed gays and lesbians to serve in the military so long as they were quiet about their sexual orientation, while also requiring that commanders not question soldiers about their sexuality.