As ousted lesbian mom visits Irving, LGBT advocates question group’s claim that 11-person committee
reviewed policy over 2 years
IRVING — As ousted Cub Scout mom Jennifer Tyrrell brought her Change.org petition to the Irving headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America this week, questions arose about the organization’s honesty and transparency.
For Tyrrell, her visit to BSA headquarters in Irving was just the beginning of her campaign to eliminate a policy that excludes gay Scouts and leaders.
“I expect the Boy Scouts to stand behind their arcane policy until it changes,” Tyrrell said. “And we’ll be here until it changes.”
Tyrrell said she misses Scouting after devoting a year of her life to the organization. But her son Cruz, 7, feels differently.
“Over it,” Cruz said.
While the Boy Scouts remained steadfast in support of the policy, they hired a public relations firm to talk to the press this week. Deron Smith, the Boy Scouts own spokesman, stopped returning all calls from the media on Tuesday.
“They’re scared,” said Rafael McDonnell, Resource Center Dallas’ communications and advocacy manager. He said the move looked like damage control.
Several weeks ago, Smith told media that the policy excluding gays could come up as a board resolution next summer after a review began this summer.
And two weeks ago, Smith told Dallas Voice that despite media reports, the policy was not under review. Then, this week, he announced that an 11-member committee had been studying the issue for two years and that, although the committee members had diverse opinions on the subject, they unanimously decided to keep the policy.
Ed Stewart, a vice president of the PR firm Fleishman and Hillard, handed out a statement Wednesday from the Boy Scouts that said it was “attributable to Deron Smith, Director of Public Relations.” An “EDITORS NOTE” at the bottom that was longer than the statement said that the meeting with Tyrrell was not to discuss changing BSA policy.
“Yesterday, the organization affirmed its current policy, stating that it remains in the best interest of Scouting,” the statement attributable to Smith said. The statement implied that the committee met on Tuesday to vote, but Stewart would not confirm any information about the committee or the report.
In her meeting with two Boy Scout officials including Smith, Tyrrell asked for some proof that the committee existed.
She asked for minutes from the recent meeting when committee members voted to retain the policy. She said she wanted to know what they learned during their study that convinced them to retain the policy.
In their meeting, Smith told her that the names of committee members and other information from the meeting would not be released.
The media statement said “this policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA’s members.” Tyrrell countered that 300,000 people interested in Scouting who signed her petition support her position that all people should be included in Scouting. Tyrrell said no Scouts she knows have been asked whether the anti-gay policy reflects their views.
Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout with two moms, has also been campaigning on the issue and met with Scout leaders at their annual conference in Florida in May. He doubted the existence of a report.
“If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist,” Wahls told Dallas Voice. “There has to be minutes, a report.”
He said that a secret vote by 11 anonymous committee members doesn’t speak for 3 million Boy Scouts.
Bil Browning, editor-in-chief of the LGBT news website the Bilerico Project, agreed.
Browning said he was told a different version of the story about the plans for a study.
“In mid-June they were going to institute a study in 2013,” he said.
He said he wondered if the latest story about the 11-member committee and the study was a result of the Mormon church threatening to pull its support from the Scouts again.
“So many fake studies. Vagaries,” Browning said. “It’s really horrible that you can’t trust the Boy Scouts.”
He wondered what happened to the Boy Scout honor code.
The spokesman for incoming Boy Scouts President Randall Stephenson, CEO of LGBT-friendly AT&T, didn’t return a call to answer whether he knew about the committee and report.
Tyrrell said she had never been an activist. She knew about the Scouts policy before agreeing to become a leader, but she was assured that locally it would not be a problem.
She said that among her biggest supporters at home is one of her Tiger Scouts’ fathers whom she described as “an NRA-supporting, gun-toting hick.” She said that after working with her, he admitted he had been bigoted. He is now embarrassed about his prejudice and thanked her for her work.
Tyrrell said that since leaving the Scouts, she’s kept her children busy with softball, fishing and playing with celebrities.
Cruz said his favorite celebrity to play with is Dianna Agron who plays Quinn on Glee. At the GLAAD Media Awards, Agron played light sabers with Cruz.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 20, 2012.