NEW YORK – When it comes to gays and the Boy Scouts, President Barack Obama and the youth organization he serves as honorary president have agreed to disagree.
The White House on Wednesday said Obama opposes the youth organization's recently reaffirmed policy of excluding gays as members and adult leaders. He has no plans to resign as honorary president, White House spokesman Shin Inouye said.
The Scouts said in a statement that they respect Obama's opinion and believe that "good people" can disagree on the subject and still work together to "accomplish the common good."
American presidents have been honorary presidents of the Boy Scouts for a century. Obama became the Scouts' honorary president in March 2009, shortly after taking office
Last month, after a confidential two-year review, the Scouts reaffirmed their longstanding policy, which has been the target of numerous protest campaigns.
For three weeks, the White House didn't comment on the Scouts' decision. On Wednesday, the press office issued an email to The Associated Press on the subject.
"The president believes the Boy Scouts is a valuable organization that has helped educate and build character in American boys for more than a century," the White House statement said. "He also opposes discrimination in all forms, and as such opposes this policy that discriminates on basis of sexual orientation."
The Boy Scouts responded with a brief statement from their national headquarters in Irving, Texas.
"The Boy Scouts of America respects the opinions of President Obama and appreciates his recognition that Scouting is a valuable organization," it said. "We believe that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to accomplish the common good."
Obama is a staunch supporter of gay-rights, even coming out in support of same-sex marriage earlier this year. Various liberal organizations have called on him to distance the White House from the Boy Scouts because of its exclusionary membership policy.
Two years ago, the Boy Scouts invited Obama to appear at its 100th anniversary jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia. The president sent a videotaped message, but the White House said he was unable to attend because of out-of-town commitments to tape a TV appearance and attend Democratic fundraisers.
Obama's Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, has not spoken publicly about the Boy Scouts' policy in recent days. A campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, told the AP that he still stands by his support of the Scouts as he noted in a 1994 political debate in Massachusetts.
"I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue," Romney said then. "I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation."