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.
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.
Obama also 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.”
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.
On the economy, Obama said more revenue has to be raised to reduce the deficit, but 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.