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Obama says Boy Scouts should allow gays as members

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Sunday that gays should be allowed in the Boy Scouts and women should be allowed in military combat roles, weighing in on two storied American institutions facing proposals to end long-held exclusions.

The president's comments in a pre-Super Bowl interview on CBS come ahead of this week's meeting of the Boy Scouts' national executive board. A proposal to open up the Scouts' membership to gays is expected to be discussed and possibly voted on at the gathering in Texas.

The Boy Scouts emphatically reaffirmed the no-gays policy just seven months ago, but announced last week they were considering changing the stance. Instead of mandatory exclusion of gays, the different religious and civic groups that sponsor Scout units would be able to decide for themselves how to address the issue — either maintaining the exclusion or opening up their membership.

The White House said in a statement last August that Obama opposed the gay ban. Obama, like presidents for the last century, serves as honorary president of the group. The president's comment Sunday was his first since the group announced it was considering a policy change.

"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. "The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives. And I think nobody should be barred from that."

Obama also had previously issued a statement supporting the Pentagon's decision last month to open up front-line combat jobs to women, but the interview with CBS' Scott Pelley included his first publicly spoken comments on the matter since the announcement. He said women are already serving in combat "as a practical matter."

"When they're in theater in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, they are vulnerable," he said. "They are wounded, and they've been killed. And they have carried out their jobs with extraordinary patriotism and distinction."

The policy change overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units, and is expected to open up more than 230,000 combat positions that have been off limits to women.

Obama said he meets "extraordinary women in uniform who can do everything that a man can and more." He gave the example of one of his military aides, who he estimated is only about 5 feet tall and 100 pounds.

"You put a 50-pound pack on her, and she can do things that you or me would keel over doing. And so the truth is that women are serving. They are taking great risks. What we should not do is somehow prevent them from advancing in an institution that we all revere."

On the economy, Obama said although more revenue has to be raised to reduce the deficit, it can be done without raising income tax rates again. He said the answer is "smart spending cuts," reducing waste in the health care system and closing loopholes and deductions like offshore tax havens that benefit a few high income earners but not most Americans.

"There's no doubt we need additional revenue coupled with smart spending reductions in order to bring down our deficit," he said. "We can do it in a gradual way so it doesn't have a huge impact."

Coming before the Super Bowl, Obama had to expect he'd be asked about his recent comment that if he had a son, he would have to think long and hard about letting him play football because of safety concerns. Obama said he feel differently about the NFL, where the players are well-compensated adults who know the risks, but the threat of concussions has to give parents pause about letting youth and children play.

"I want to make sure we are doing everything we can to make the sport safer, and that means the game's probably going to evolve a little bit," Obama said. "For those of us who like to see a big hit and enjoy the rock 'em, sock 'em elements of the game, we're probably going to be occasionally frustrated.

"But I do think we want to make sure that after people have played the game, that they're going to be OK," he said.

The Obamas were hosting their own Super Bowl party for friends and family at the White House. In honor of the two teams, the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, they were serving Chesapeake crabcakes and San Francisco cioppino stew with sourdough toast. Also on the menu are Clipper City and Anchor Steam beers from the competing cities.

Comments

BurritoJones 1 year, 7 months ago

While I'm horrified at the widespread sexual abuse in the organization, I think this is a similar set of circumstances to the current gun debate. I.e. passing legislation to "punish" law-abiding people. I don't think dismantling a group of many for the actions of a few is the right course.

A better example could be the Penn State scandal. I don't want to see the unaware students and staff punished for the crimes of a subset of their group.

I do however, think some drastic changes need to be made to the BSA. For starters, the top of the organization needs to be aggressively restructured. Anyone involved in covering up or participating in sexual abuse should be publicly banned from the organization and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

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John5214 1 year, 7 months ago

And why should I care what Obamarma thinks?

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notblind 1 year, 7 months ago

The epitome of an out of touch politician.

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BurritoJones 1 year, 7 months ago

Since when is it out of touch to suggest that an organization that receives federal assistance not be discriminatory?

For decades the BSA have received indirect federal support in the form of equipment and free use of government lands/property that other private organizations have to pay for. More recently they’ve received actual money from the Department of Housing(HUD project, $1million) and the US Mint($3.5million). What other private organizations do we allow to receive government funding but still be discriminatory?

It's 2013. It's time for everyone to grow up and stop caring if someone is different from you.

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dman 1 year, 7 months ago

It is not about discrimination. It is about putting somebody in a situation, that we already know causes some issues. Obviously not every Gay or Straight person is a bad person, but other bad people and deeds in the past, have made all of us leery of what "could" happen. Do you put a Meth-addicted rehab patient working for a medicine company? Do you let drunks drive delivery trucks for a Beer company? Why put people in situations where, we know from the past, has a chance of causing harm to others?

But I do agree with Half of BurritoJones, which I guess makes me a Taco...BSA shouldn't be given government assistance or help. Whether they discriminate or not. We need to cut out the gov't assistance. We are trying to balance the budget...not keep tipping it towards disaster.

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BurritoJones 1 year, 7 months ago

Clarify for me: Are you suggesting gays have a higher risk rate toward sexual abuse?

Because I'm going to have to insist you show your math.

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dman 1 year, 7 months ago

NO, I am not saying that. My point is, why take the chance? IF BSA wants to keep gov't assistance...then don't discriminate. if they want to keep assistance, then they may have to give in.

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BurritoJones 1 year, 7 months ago

Apologies. I'm not sure I follow. What chance is the BSA taking right now?

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charlesg 1 year, 7 months ago

Why put people in situations where, we know from the past, has a chance of causing harm to others?

Go on, describe to this Eagle Scout the situations in the BSA which have high chances of causing harm to others, and how it's relevant to having gay members in scouting.

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joesox75 1 year, 7 months ago

**

Why put people in situations where, we know from the past, has a chance of causing harm to others?

**

That is exactly why I do not allow my children to attend church.

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dman 1 year, 7 months ago

Joe. That is just so sad.

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Mack711 1 year, 7 months ago

This person can comment on this issue but is quiet on the Americans who have lost their lives overseas? Where are his priorities.

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BurritoJones 1 year, 7 months ago

Is this an attempt to shoehorn Benghazi back into the conversation?

Because I'll ask where your priorities have been. http://g-ecx.images-amazon.com/images/G/01/askville/5084159_answers/1352138744356_benghaziposter.jpg

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