Four Scout leaders whose petitions on Change.org sparked a national movement to end the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay policy, delivered more than 1.4 million signatures from their combined petitions to the Boy Scouts headquarters Monday, the same day that the Board of Directors for the Boy Scouts start a three-day meeting at which they’ll discuss a proposal to allow local Scout Councils to welcome gay Scouts and leaders. They were joined by Brad Hankins, Campaign Director for Scouts for Equality, as well as representatives from GLAAD and Change.org.
Jennifer Tyrrell, a gay mom removed as the den leader of her eight-year-old son’s Cub Scout pack; Greg Bourke, a gay dad who was forced to resign his position of Assistant Scoutmaster; Eric Andresen, the father of an 18-year-old Boy Scout who was barred from receiving his Eagle Award because of his sexual orientation; and Will Oliver, a gay Eagle Scout and student at Northwestern University, all traveled to Dallas to deliver their petitions and urge the Boy Scouts of America to end their national ban on gay Scouts and gay Scout leaders.
“Today, I’m helping deliver more than 1.4 million Change.org petition signatures to the Boy Scouts of America, urging the national board to end ban on gay youth and parents, and give me the opportunity to once again serve my son’s Cub Scout Pack,” said Tyrrell, who launched her Change.org petition in April 2012 with support from GLAAD. “I do not want one more mother or father to have to look their child in the eyes and tell them that their parents aren’t good enough – or are different. The Boy Scouts of America can do better than that.”
Bourke, whose partner and children traveled to Dallas with him to deliver signatures from his petition, said that even though he had the backing of his community, the Boy Scouts of America still fired him from his Assistant Scoutmaster position because of his sexual orientation.
“After being forced to resign, I received unanimous support from the Boy Scouts in my Troop, the other Troop adult Leaders, the Troop Committee, my pastor and everyone at my church,” Bourke said. “In the name of fairness, in the name of equality, in the name of God I ask the Executive Board to please end this harmful discrimination now.”
Andresen, whose son Ryan fulfilled all his requirements for his Eagle Scout award but was told he couldn’t receive it because of his sexual orientation, said that it pains him to see the suffering the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy has caused his son.
“I want to tell the BSA that my son Ryan is not inferior and that no parent should ever have to go through delivering devastating news like I had to deliver to my son,” Andresen said, delivering nearly half a million signatures from his family’s petition. “I pray that the BSA national board starts to understand this, and acts quickly to make the incredible Scouting journey open to all young men across America.”
Oliver, a gay Eagle Scout who launched a petition calling on the National Geographic Channel, a strategic partner of the Boy Scouts of America, to condemn the organization’s anti-gay policy, said that a Scout should be judged on their trustworthiness, bravery, and kindness, and not on their sexual orientation.
“The Boy Scouts of America’s exclusionary policy fails to reflect the values I learned in Scouting,” said Oliver, who traveled to Dallas with his two brothers, also Eagle Scouts. “You do not learn discrimination in the Boy Scouts, yet every day gay Scouts and scout leaders are continually told that they don’t belong in this organization.”
After speaking outside of the Boy Scouts of America’s headquarters Monday, Tyrrell, Bourke, Andresen, and Oliver hand-delivered the petition signatures to a representative of the Boy Scouts of America. The Board of Directors for the Boy Scouts of America is meeting February 4-6 in Irving, where they plan to vote on a proposal that would officially end the national ban on gay service, and instead allow local Scout Councils around the country to determine whether or not to accept openly gay Scouts and leaders.
Brad Hankins, Campaign Director for Scouts for Equality, said that the voices of those in Dallas today, as well as those of thousands of Scouts alumni and current Scouts around the country, are calling for an inclusive national organization.
“In seven months, we’ve built an organization comprised of thousands of alumni Eagle Scouts, as well as current Scouts and Scoutmasters, who are all very concerned about the future health of an organization we cherish — the Boy Scouts of America.” said Hankins. “We believe that this policy change must be enacted as a mitigated solution toward the final goal of ending discrimination throughout all of Scouting, lest the program be isolated on the fringe of our society. As America embraces universal equality, so should the Boy Scouts of America.”
“Today’s delivery marks one final push by the more than 1.4 million signers who’ve taken action on Change.org demanding an end to the Boy Scout’s national ban on gay youth and parents,” said Mark Anthony Dingbaum, senior campaign manager at Change.org. “Through cutting-edge technology and powerful storytelling, Jennifer, Greg, Eric, and Will mobilized millions, and stand at an historic moment where their work could undo years of discrimination.”
“The Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations and millions of Americans that banning gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “The BSA will continue to hear from these advocates until discrimination against dedicated gay scouts is a thing of the past. Scouting is a valuable institution and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect.”