US Attorney General: Boy Scouts’ ban on gay members is a ‘relic of prejudice’

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The US Attorney General has attacked the Boy Scouts of America for their ban on gay adult members, describing it as a “relic of prejudice”.

The BSA voted last year to allow gay youth members, but gay adult members still face a ban, and several scoutmasters have been expelled for their sexuality.

Eric Holder, who has been Attorney General since 2009 made the comments to LGBT rights-based legal group, Lambda Legal.

Holder said: “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.”

He added that the BSA is “an iconic American institution”, but its policy is “a relic of an age of prejudice and insufficient understanding”, which “perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes”.

The Boy Scouts of America last month welcomed a new leader, former Defence Secretary Bob Gates.

Gates, who oversaw the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the military, said he would have liked to have seen BSA repeal its policy entirely, but would not now seek to do so.

He said: “I would have supported having gay Scoutmasters, but at the same time, I fully accept the decision that was democratically arrived at by 1,500 volunteers from across the entire country.

“Given the strong feelings involved on both sides of this matter, 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.”

Holder has previously said the Justice Department will “aggressively defend” same-sex marriage, and warned states attempting to maintain bans preventing equal marriage.