LOS ANGELES – Big Brothers-Big Sisters of America Inc., the organization that for nearly a century has provided adult mentors to help kids from single-parent families, has imposed a new rule that demands that all 500 U.S. affiliates sign up for homosexual mentors or risk being kicked out of the program.
"You cannot discriminate against a person based on race, sex, sexual orientation," said Khush Cooper, a lesbian and longtime big sister.
Cooper said she's as good as any straight mentor and supports mandatory inclusion of gays because it helps stop prejudice.
"I don’t think my being gay or lesbian affects how I can teach a kid how to ride a bike or how I can help with their geometry at school. It just has no bearing on it," she said.
But critics are not so convinced.
"It's another case of political correctness gone wild," said Peter Sprigg, senior director of Culture Studies at the Family Research Council.
Sprigg said sexual preference must be taken into account when considering role models for children.
"They don't allow adult men to serve as mentors for young girls and presumably that is in large part because of the risk those mentors might view those children as potential sexual objects. So it makes no sense whatsoever to allow homosexual men to serve as mentors to young boys," he said.
Big Brothers-Big Sisters organizations declined repeated requests for an interview, but say parents have the final say in approving their child's mentor. However, school-based programs are not required to reveal whether a child is paired with a gay or lesbian mentor.
Cooper said her sexuality has never been an issue with the children she's mentored, regardless of their sexual orientation, but Sprigg said if homosexuals want to volunteer, they should look elsewhere.
"There are many job opportunities and volunteer opportunities in which a person's sexual orientation makes no difference at all, but working with young children is not one of those cases," he said.
A spokesman for Big Brothers-Big Sisters claims integrating homosexual mentors into local chapters is a longstanding policy. The only difference now is that locals are now required to comply whether they support it or not.