Speaking at a Lambda Legal reception Tuesday night, Attorney General Eric Holder took aim at the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) as an example of the kind of discrimination that continues to hold back LGBT equality.
The organization’s policy to continue prohibiting gay, lesbian, and bisexual scout leaders “only preserves and perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes,” Holder told the sold-out reception. “Like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ it’s a relic of an age of prejudice and insufficient understanding.”
In contrast, “courageous lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals routinely put their lives on the line as members of America’s armed services.” If they are fit for military service, Holder reasoned, “then surely they are fit to mentor, to teach, and to serve as role models for the leaders of future generations.”
Robert Gates, who helped usher the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as Secretary of Defense, recently began a two-year term as president of the BSA. When he addressed the organization at the beginning of his term, he said that he would have supported ending all forms of anti-gay discrimination — not just against Scouts. Still, he believes that reopening that debate would “irreparably fracture or perhaps even provoke a formal, permanent split in this movement.”
Holder remains optimistic that “positive change is not inevitable” if the LGBT movement continues to combat the “denial of dignity” at the root of all such discrimination. As Attorney General, he has worked to extend federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples since the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned by the Supreme Court. This includes supporting couples who live in states that don’t recognize their unions and veterans, who have faced extra hurdles to obtain their benefits. Under Holder’s leadership, the Department of Justice has also worked with the Department of Education to investigate anti-LGBT bullying in schools and implement interventions to ensure student safety.