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 of America headquarters on Monday.
Monday was significant in that the Board of Directors for the Boy Scouts started a three-day meeting at which they’ll discuss a proposal to allow local Scout Councils to welcome gay Scouts and leaders.
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 travelled 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.
“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 travelled 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 organisation’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 travelled 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 organisation.”
The Boy Scouts of America’s Board of Directors plan to vote this week on a proposal that would 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.
Conservatives against the Scouts ending the ban have been campaigning against the move, making appearances on television and suggesting that boys could be in danger from gay male scout leaders.
The homophobic Family Research Council and 41 allied organisations ran a full page ad in USA Today insisting that changing the policy is “a grave mistake” and that “to compromise moral principles under political and financial pressure would teach the boys cowardice, not courage.”
The ad warned that parents should be “alarmed” at the proposed change and suggested that the policy is in place to “protect Scouts from sexual abuse”.