Twenty members of Congress have sent a letter to the Boy Scouts of America, urging it to drop its ban on gay youth and adults.
Excluding gay Scouts and Scout leaders "is counter to BSA's mission to teach our youth to combat discrimination," said the letter, signed by 20 Democrats, including Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California and Rep. George Miller of California.
The BSA is a congressionally chartered organization, and has the mission of instilling "traditionally American values of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion of others," the members of Congress wrote.
"We strongly urge the BSA to pass the proposed resolution to end discrimination against gay youth," they wrote, referring a BSA policy vote that is expected to occur Thursday.
"Furthermore, we believe that BSA should implement a full nondiscrimination policy," they said.
"A policy that prohibits young members from transitioning to leadership roles is not only discriminatory, but incongruent with the BSA vision of fostering lifelong leaders."
Other Democratic House members who signed the letter to the BSA were: Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado; Rep. David N. Cicilline of Rhode Island; Rep. Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona; Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota; Rep. Jose E. Serrano of New York; Rep. Jan D. Schakowsky of Illinois; Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon; Rep. Marc A. Veasey of Texas; Iowa Reps. Rep. Bruce L. Braley and Dave Loebsack; and California Reps. Adam B. Schiff, Barbara Lee, Mark Takano, Eric Swalwell, Zoe Lofgren, Alan S. Lowenthal, Scott H. Peters and Jared Huffman.
Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, who was raised by two lesbians, praised the letter.
"We applaud these leaders for taking a stand on behalf of all of the amazing young men who have been denied the opportunity to be a part of the Boy Scouts of America," said Mr. Wahls, who founded Scouts for Equality to persuade the BSA to drop its ban against "open or avowed homosexuals" in its ranks.
Scouts for Equality, the Inclusive Scouting Network, GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign are hosting a summit on the gay issue directly across from the BSA national conference, which starts Wednesday in Grapevine, Texas.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, has been a vocal supporter of the BSA current policy; he and Rep. Steve Palazzo, Mississippi Republican, were among the speakers on a recent simulcast called "Stand With Scouts Sunday," hosted May 5 by OnMyHonor.net and Family Research Council and others.
The BSA was founded more than 100 years ago as a Judeo-Christian-based leadership-training and character-building program for boys. It currently has 2.7 million youth and more than 1 million volunteers.
Its current membership policy on gays says: "While the BSA does not proactively inquire about sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals, or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA."
For decades, the BSA has repeatedly asserted that it does not view homosexual conduct as consistent with the Scout Oath or Scout Law. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the BSA membership policy as constitutional in its 2000 ruling in Boys Scouts of America v. Dale.
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