President Obama has put additional pressure on the Boy Scouts of America, the day before the organization’s national board meets to discuss rescinding its ban on gay scouts. During an interview aired Sunday before the Super Bowl, Obama spoke in support of LGBTQ citizens who are not allowed to openly serve in the Scouts.
“My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does, in every institution and walk of life,” Obama said. He called the Boy Scouts of America “a great institution,” speaking highly of the life skills taught by the group.
As a private organization, the Scouts are allowed to set their own policies about membership. Several high-profile cases in which openly gay Scouts or Scout masters have been removed from the organization have drawn criticism. Many were ousted after years of dedicated service.
Last week, the Scouts announced that the admittance of gay members would be discussed during a board meeting Monday in Irving, Tex. The group had restated its ban as recently as July. As an organization built on Christian values and with many of its troops operating out of churches, there has been resistance from members to uphold the ban.
“The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic or educational organizations that oversee and deliver scouting to determine how to address this issue,” Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement. “The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members or parents.”
On Saturday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an eagle scout, spoke in favor of the ban during a statewide meeting of Boy Scouts held before the national board meeting. Perry suggested that the organization was “under attack from the forces of secularism,” and that there was no reason to change the policy.
“Hopefully the board will follow their historic position of keeping the Scouts strongly supportive of the values that make scouting this very important and impactful organization,” he said.