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WASHINGTON — Taking aim at the Boy Scouts of America's continuing ban on gay adult leaders, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that the prohibition perpetuates "the worst kind of stereotypes.''

"It's a relic of an age of prejudice and insufficient understanding,'' the attorney general said Tuesday evening to Lambda Legal, an advocacy group for LGBT rights.

Referring to the group's work a decade ago to challenge the termination of a gay assistant scoutmaster, Holder said that "too many organizations, policies and practices that discriminate against LGBT individuals remain persistent concerns.''

"Unfortunately, the continuation of a policy that discriminates against gay adult leaders – by an iconic American institution – only preserves and perpetuates the worst kind of stereotypes,'' he said.

Last year, the Boy Scouts of America's national council voted to allow openly gay youths to join the organization. But the council maintained its prohibition on gay adult leaders. Former Defense secretary Robert Gates, in an interview last month with the Associated Press after taking over as BSA president, said he would have allowed gay adult leaders but accepted the vote of the council.

"We recognize there are many opinions on these matters,'' the BSA said in a written statement, referring to Gates' recent remarks. "The Boy Scouts of America believes that to disagree does not mean to disrespect, we remain focused on delivering the nation's foremost youth development program.''

Yet Holder said that just as gay men and women "put their lives on the line as members of America's armed services...then then surely they are fit to mentor, to teach, and to serve as role models for the leaders of future generations.''

Earlier Tuesday, Holder marked the observance of an LGBT event at the Justice Department, by recounting a string of recent decisions, from the end of the military's 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy to the Supreme Court's repeal last year of the federal government's ban on recognizing gay marriage.

"In recent years, and even in the last 12 months, our nation has made extraordinary strides to overcome obstacles and institutional biases that too often affect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals,'' Holder said.

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