A day after announcing his presidential bid, Governor Scott Walker sparked controversy among gay rights groups over comments he made about proposed changes to a Boy Scouts of America policy on allowing openly gay adults to serve as leaders.
The BSA’s executive committee this week unanimously approved a resolution that would allow gay adults to serve as leaders and employees within the organization. If approved at a meeting of the full executive board later this month, it would allow individual units to set their own policy on gay leadership. The move follows a 2013 decision that opened scouting to gay youth.
In an interview with the Independent Journal Review, a conservative website, Walker reflected on his experiences with scouting. The governor, who has frequently made mention of the influence being an Eagle Scout has had on his life, said “I have had a lifelong commitment to the Scouts and support the previous membership policy because it protected children and advanced Scout values.”
Walker’s comments drew condemnation from critics. In a statement, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin called it “offensive, outrageous, and absolutely unacceptable” for Walker to imply that gay individuals “represent a threat to the safety and well-being of young people.”
Griffin added that “For a sitting governor and presidential candidate to make such a disgraceful claim is unconscionable. If Scott Walker is trying to get his merit badge in being shamefully irresponsible, he just earned it with flying colors.”
Walker campaign spokeswoman AshLee Strong sought to clarify Walker’s comments, writing in an email Tuesday evening that “The previous policy protected Scouts from the rancorous political debate over policy issues and culture wars. Scouts should not be used as a political football on issues that can often be heated and divisive.”
This story was updated to include a statement from the Walker campaign.