Tancredo Letter Attacking Big Brothers Policy Plays On Longstanding Prejudice

On November 20th, The Human Rights Campaign condemned a congressional
sign-on letter to President Bush that was spearheaded by Rep. Thomas
Tancredo, R-Colo. The letter attacks a policy enacted over the summer by the
Big Brothers and Sisters of America (BBBSA) prohibiting discrimination based
on sexual orientation. BBBSA has had a non-discrimination policy that covers
sexual orientation, race, religion and ethnicity for more than 25 years, and
in July 2002 the rule became mandatory for all affiliates.

"Representative Tancredo and his associates are playing on long-standing
prejudices in an attempt to smear gay men and lesbians who are giving of
their time and talent to mentor at-risk youth. A person's sexual orientation
has nothing to do with their ability to provide positive mentoring to
children in need. Attacks like this serve only to fuel misunderstanding and
prejudice against the gay community," said HRC Political Director Winnie
Stachelberg.

The letter attacking the BBBSA non-discrimination policy has also been
signed by Reps. John Hostettler, R-Ind.; Ernest Istook, R-Okla.; Brian
Kerns, R-Ind.; Joseph Pitts, R-Pa.; Jim Ryun, R-Kan.; Bob Schaffer, R-Colo.;
Chris Smith, R-N.J.; and John Sullivan, R-Okla.

In addition to the attack on the BBBSA policy, the letter attempts to link
sexual orientation with pedophilia. The American Psychological Association,
the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Child
Psychiatrists and the Child Welfare League of America all have policy
statements stating there is no correlation between homosexuality and child
abuse.

"The new policy ignores the psychological research and common-sense. As a
general rule of thumb, Big Brothers doesn't match up adult men with teenage
girls. Obviously that would set up a risky situation that could lead to
sexual abuse," wrote Tancredo, who went on to list anecdotal accounts of gay
abuse in BBBSA.

"In spite of Tancredo's assertions, the overwhelming evidence from the
medical community has said time and again that sexual orientation is not a
factor in abuse. To infer otherwise is to ignore the scientific proof.
Likewise, sexual orientation does not play a role in a person's ability to
mentor at-risk youth," said Stachelberg. "HRC continues to support Big
Brothers and Big Sisters of America for their recognition and acceptance of
gay and lesbian mentors."

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