Ousted lesbian Scout leader persists in drive to end gay ban

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 18, 2012 3:51 PM
Ousted lesbian Scout leader persists in drive to end gay ban

By Marice Richter

IRVING, Texas (Reuters) - Ousted Cub Scout leader Jennifer Tyrrell of Ohio delivered petitions with more than 300,000 signatures to the Boy Scouts of America on Wednesday in the hopes of getting the Texas-based organization to lift its ban on gay scouts and scout leaders.

Dressed in her scout uniform, Tyrrell, a lesbian, met with organization representatives briefly to deliver the petitions and again ask the Boy Scouts to remove an "outdated policy" of excluding gays. On Tuesday, the organization reaffirmed its stance based on the recommendations of a two-year study by an 11-member committee.

The younger Cub Scouts are affiliated with Boy Scouts.

Tyrrell, accompanied by her partner, Alicia Burns, and their 7-year-old son, Cruz, said the meeting was cordial but that no commitments were made.

"We did a lot of talking, and some crying, but we made our point," she said after the meeting. "We will continue going until we get the policy changed," she said. "This is not the end."

The Boy Scouts acknowledged receipt of the petitions from Tyrrell and her family and said it was the second time the organization has received petitions from them.

"The BSA values the freedom of everyone to express their opinion and believes to disagree does not mean to disrespect," the Boy Scouts said in the statement.

A few members of Kingdom Baptist Church in the Dallas suburb of Mansfield, Texas, gathered outside the organization's headquarters, carrying signs that read "Fear God" and "Let the Wicked Forsake His Name."

"We applaud the Boy Scouts for taking a stand in support of traditional morality," Pastor Joey Faust said. "We're here to show our support."

The policy prohibiting gays has been an ongoing source of controversy with celebrities, high-profile business leaders and scouts weighing in.

The Boy Scouts on Tuesday said leaving the policy unchanged protects the rights of families that prefer to address matters relating to sexuality in private, and that no further action on the subject was planned.

In 2000, the organization won a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing it to ban gays in keeping with its values.

A campaign to reverse the ban has gathered momentum in the past 18 months due to Tyrrell's ouster in April and criticism of the policy by Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, who has two lesbian mothers.

Tyrrell fought back tears as she described how devastated she was to receive the call from the organization telling her to step down as the leader of Cruz's Cub Scout pack.

"We love scouting and all that it stands for," she said. "I had promised these boys that I would stay with them until they reached the rank of eagle. That's why I will keep fighting."

Two Boy Scouts of America board members have indicated support for change. Jim Turley, chairman and chief executive officer of Ernst & Young, has said the organization shouldn't exclude gays. Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, said he favors change from within and supports diversity.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Stacey Joyce)