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AMA, the American Medical Association, Says the Boy Scouts Should Reconsider Gay Ban

CHICAGO (Reuters Health) - After a very brief debate, the American Medical Association with only a handful of dissents
voted to ask the Boy Scouts to reconsider its ban on homosexuals.

The new policy doesn't name the Boy Scouts but rather directs the AMA to ``ask youth-oriented organizations to reconsider exclusionary policies that are based on sexual orientation.'' But even without naming the Boy Scouts, speakers on both sides of the
issue all referenced the Boy Scouts because that organization has policy that excludes homosexuals.

Associated Press, June 18, 2001

AMA Considers Youth Group Resolution

CHICAGO (AP) -- With their sights trained on the Boy Scouts, members of the American Medical Association have proposed a resolution that would ask national youth groups not to ban gays because such policies could drive young people to suicide.

AMA members proposing the resolution, discussed Monday at the association's annual meeting, said reversing policies that exclude gays could help "lower the increased risk of suicide in the adolescent homosexual population.''

The proposal does not explicitly name the Boy Scouts of America, but the member who raised the issue is a Scout troop leader in Rhode Island. Steve DeToy, government affairs director for the AMA in Rhode Island, said he knew of no other national youth groups with policies to exclude gays.

Patricia Dunn, public policy director at the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, said several studies have shown that gay, lesbian and bisexual youths face an increased suicide risk. A Massachusetts survey published this month in the American Journal of Public Health found that gay high school students were about four times more likely to have attempted suicide as
heterosexual students.

The AMA proposal also says that teen suicide rates are lower in states that have anti-discrimination laws.

While there was virtually no opposition among the several AMA members who spoke at the committee meeting, some said the health impact of exclusionary policies goes beyond suicide.

"Homophobia is a health hazard,'' said Dr. Thomas Hicks, a Tallahassee, Fla., family physician. He said gays who are left out may feel ostracized and suffer lifelong emotional scars.

Gregg Shields, the Boy Scouts' national spokesman, said in a telephone interview that the ban on gays -- upheld a year ago by the U.S.Supreme Court -- is driven by the Scouts' volunteer board of directors, who would probably not be swayed by any AMA policy.

"We respect everyone's opinions and beliefs and values,'' Shields said. "We simply ask other people to respect our values and our beliefs and our opinions.''

The proposed resolution was to be sent to the AMA's 547-member House of Delegates for a vote later this week. The resolution would become official AMA policy if approved.

Dunn said approval would be "a major step,'' putting the weight of a "national credible organization'' behind the issue.

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