President Barack Obama expressed his opposition to the Boy Scouts of America's reaffirmation of its policy of excluding gays on Wednesday.
The president called the rule, which was renewed in July after a two-year review, "discrimination" in a statement to the Washington Blade.
“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. “He also opposes discrimination in all forms, and as such opposes this policy that discriminates on basis of sexual orientation.”
The ban has been faced with opposition by some former scouts, several of whom returned their badges in protest of the rule. Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney also expressed opposition to the ban, saying "all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation."
Despite the opposition, the Boy Scouts' chief executive, Bob Mazzuca, said most Scout families support the policy, which applies to both adult leaders and Scouts.
The AP reported earlier:
The Scouts cited support from parents as a key reason for keeping the policy and expressed hope that the prolonged debate over it might now subside. Bitter reactions from gay-rights activists suggested that result was unlikely.
The Scouts' national spokesman, Deron Smith, told The Associated Press that an 11-member special committee, formed discreetly by top Scout leaders in 2010, came to the conclusion that the exclusion policy "is absolutely the best policy" for the 102-year-old organization.
Smith said the committee, comprised of professional scout executives and adult volunteers, was unanimous in its conclusion – preserving a long-standing policy that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 and has remained controversial ever since.
This isn't the first time Obama has expressed his support for the LGBT community. In May 2012, he became the first sitting president to announce his support for same-sex marriage, and in June he held a Gay Pride Month reception at the White House.
UPDATE: The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) decried the Boy Scouts' "outdated policy" in a press release:
"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,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “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?”
Below, politicians react to Obama's gay marriage stance: