Group Calls for Teaching of 'Gay History' in Schools

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:03 PM EDT

( - A leading homosexual rights advocacy group Friday called on the Boy Scouts of America to "end discrimination" against homosexuals and called for the teaching of "gay history" in schools.

At a breakfast briefing in Los Angeles, top legal strategists from the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund outlined what they consider to be leading discrimination problems facing homosexuals.

"Advances toward equality for lesbians, gay men and people with HIV and AIDS are at the cutting edge of civil rights law today," Kevin Cathcart, Lambda executive director, said in a statement. "In California and around the country, Lambda will drive many of these advances, both within and outside the courtroom."

Prior to the breakfast, Ruth Harlow, Lambda's new legal director, denounced the appointment of John Ashcroft to attorney general, who she accused of "hate mongering" for calling homosexuality "abnormal" and labeling civil rights "special rights."

Lambda took special issue with Ashcroft for saying homosexuality can be reversible.

Ashcroft dismissed "the unanimous expert judgment of every major U.S. medical and mental health professional organization" when he referred to "thousands of former homosexuals, individuals who once were engaged in a homosexual lifestyle, who have changed that lifestyle and have repudiated it and find themselves to be engaged in heterosexual lifestyles," Lambda said.

"We were concerned with John Ashcroft's well-documented history of opposing equality and respect for people because of our sexual orientation," spokesperson Peg Byron said in a phone interview.

"At the same time, the discussion showed that this is not an issue one can hammer against a group of people. To get the job, he had to state that he would not discriminate. We hope that's the case and we'll watch to be sure that it is, but it's significant that he had to reassess his earlier statements and at least on paper make the claim that he would not be discriminatory."

While medical opinion is divided on homosexuality, many experts support the view held by Ashcroft. A 1992 survey by the American Psychiatric Association's Office of International Affairs in conjunction with the APA Committee of Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Psychiatrists surveyed 125 psychiatric associations around the world, family groups report. The survey found that all but three associations consider homosexuality a mental illness or a sexual deviation, they said.

Lambda also called for "foster care reforms vital for gay and transgender youth, who disproportionately rely on this system." It also supports "ending discrimination by the Boy Scouts of America," and "teaching schools to acknowledge gay people and gay history."