Acclaimed director Steven Spielberg has abruptly left his position on the Boy Scouts of America's advisory board, giving the group's exclusion of gays as his reason.
"The last few years in scouting have deeply saddened me to see the Boy Scouts of America actively and publicly participating in discrimination. It's a real shame," Spielberg said in a statement released Monday.
The Boy Scouts' policy prohibiting gay members has triggered heated debate. The group scored a victory last June, when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Scouts' right to decide who could belong.
"I thought the Boy Scouts stood for equal opportunity and I have consistently spoken out publicly and privately against intolerance and discrimination based on ethnic, religious, racial, and sexual orientation," Spielberg noted. The Oscar-winning director is opposed to the exclusion of gays or any other group from scouting, his rep told Reuters.
Scouts Defend Their Stance
Joey Robinson, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts' Los Angeles council, said he had not yet been informed that the filmmaker had departed his advisory role. He did, however, defend the council's right to set its membership policies. "It's not discrimination, it's the right to set membership standards," Robinson said. "Every group has its standards: The Girl Scouts have a rule that you have to be a girl."
When asked how he felt about Spielberg's opposition to the group's policy excluding gays, Robinson said, "This is America. Everybody has a right to voice their opinion and we respect his right."
Spielberg, who was once a Boy Scout, said he would return on one condition: "Once scouting opens its doors to all who desire the same experience that so fully enriched me as a young person, I will be happy to reconsider a role on the advisory board."
Reuters contributed to this story.