For a brief time on July 17, a monumental shift within the Boys Scouts of America's policy banning gay scouts and leaders seemed possible.
Jennifer Tyrrell, a gay mother from Ohio who was removed as den mother in April because of her sexual orientation, planned to deliver a petition to the BSA's national headquarters in Irving on July 18. On that date, the BSA prohibited access to their headquarters and met with Tyrrell in their museum instead, and three people from a Mansfield church showed up to protest “the homosexual agenda.” The petition consists of more than 300,000 signatures on change.org to repeal the ban and to reinstate her. Celebrity signatures include Ricky Martin, Julianne Moore and Benicio Del Torro.
“I love scouts,” said Tyrrell, whose petition is ongoing and picked up 2,000 more signatures July 17. “I'm not here to bash the scouts... We're just here showing the world we're just like everybody else and want to be treated fairly.”
Her petition had already persuaded two BSA board members to publicly announce their support and commitment to end the ban. On June 13, Ernst & Young CEO James Turley was the first BSA board member to publicly show his support. In early July, AT&T CEO and BSA Vice President Randall Stephenson, who is rumored to become the BSA Board of Directors president-elect, followed suit. News articles, blogs and YouTube videos of people urging for change popped up nationwide.
With this support from within and outside of the BSA, a real change seemed possible, even probable – that the longstanding ban might be reversed. Then, the day before Tyrrell and her 7-year-old son, Cruz, were schedule to deliver the petition, the BSA announced it had held a secret closed meeting to review a resolution to reconsider the ban, reaffirmed it and would continue it.
When reached for comment, the BSA spokesperson was unable to come to the phone and then e-mailed the BSA’s press release, which did not discuss the reasoning behind the decision, details about the two-year study the decision was based on, or name the 11 volunteers and professional leaders who made up the executive committee. The press release can be found on the scouting website, http://bit.ly/OORoDT.
“How can 11 members of a team decide that the words of 300,000 people don̓t matter?” said a tearful Tyrrell, who found the BSA̓s timing and lack of transparency upsetting. She said she thinks the timing was meant to undermine her petition and that the BSA̓s actions go against its values of trustworthiness and honesty.
The BSA said the committee was diverse, reviewed extensive research, and the majority of the organization agreed with the decision, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2000 in a close 5-4 decision.
Marlin Bynum, an Irving resident who frequently protests outside of the BSA headquarters, said he thinks continued pressure will cause the BSA to change its policy and will not require a reversal of the Supreme Court’s decision.
“As a parent myself I just feel disappointed. She's a mother, so she should be allowed to be a leader in her child̓s activity,” said C.d. Kirven, Get Equal national board member and Get Equal Texas lead organizer, who thinks the BSA is too focused on Tyrrell’s sexual orientation and not seeing her as a whole person. “The Boy Scouts, which has been an honorable organization, is acting dishonorably by continuing to facilitate discrimination and homophobia.”
Tyrrell met with Boy Scout officials when delivering the petition, which she began after the BSA removed her from her position as den mother in April. Tyrrell said the BSA representatives stated her removal was not personal and that she had a nice family; they were just following BSA policy. She said the policy is outdated and needs to be changed.
“We̓re just going to keep putting the story out there until the Boy Scouts have no choice but to... change this policy,” Tyrrell said. “I̓ve never been much of an advocate or an activist, but now that I have kids I do not want them to have to live with this on a daily basis.”