WATCH: DV editor compares Scouts policy to DADT on ‘Inside Texas Politics’

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The Boy Scouts’ new policy allowing gay youth but banning gay adult leaders is the new “don’t ask, don’t tell.” At least that’s what I told Inside Texas Politics during a “My Voice, My Opinion” segment on the Sunday morning news show this week. My 60-second commentary begins shortly after the 8:40 mark in the video below.

—  John Wright

A letter showing why we still have a long way to go in fighting bigotry

BSAI received a strange email this week, and I’m not sure why.

It was written by one Sebastian Wolfgang, apparently in response to a piece in the Dallas Morning News (paywall) by Tom Melsheimer saying that the Boy Scouts of America had “failed their leadership challenge” in opposing gay leaders in the Scouts.

Sebastian Wolfgang took issue with this approach, and sent an email to Melsheimer in which he laid out in clear arguments how destructive gay people are. Just why the author chose to cc me on this email, I’m not sure, but the thing is, he seems more happy with making up facts than reporting them. The amount of misinformation (“sodomy has been against the law for over 200 years in our country” — he never heard of Lawrence v. Texas, apparently) and outright dangerous libels (“Almost 100% of AIDS come from homosexuals”). It just goes to show how far we still have to go in order to overcome the homophobia that continues.

After the break, then, is the email:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Gay Councilman Joel Burns on the Boy Scouts

Joel Burns“Today’s decision by the Boy Scouts of America was not a partial or incremental win for LGBT scouts; it was a disappointing failure by BSA to demonstrate the very leadership they should be fostering in kids.

“As I mentioned earlier today in an NBC5 interview, the BSA needs to understand that discrimination of any kind undermines the values and goodwill they have fostered in youth and families since I was a scout and for generations of scouts before and after.

“I get invited to speak to scout troops frequently, but last year when our foreign exchange kid Jakob joined the scouts I could only be a guest speaker, their Council member, and a his dad, but not a “scout dad” at his troop. Jakob and many of his fellow scouts saw through this absurd hypocrisy, as did their parents.

“And while many of my fellow parents of scouts are friends and were able to make a “learning moment” from the situation, what there is to learn from today is what makes me most sad about BSA’s decision: Inviting more youth into the organization to be told they will be accepted only up until a certain age and will then be rejected is grossly cruel, indefensible and shameful. The BSA today failed scouts and parents alike.”

— Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, commenting Friday on his Facebook page about the Boy Scouts’ proposal to allow gay youth but not gay adult leaders

—  John Wright

EXCLUSIVE: Boy Scouts of America surveys members, parents on gay ban

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This morning we obtained access to a Boy Scouts of America survey that was emailed to members and their parents on Sunday, seeking their opinions about the group’s gay ban.

“The Boy Scouts of America is in the process of a careful and deliberate review of our membership policy, as it relates to the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation,” the BSA wrote in an email announcing the survey. “We are dedicated to the integrity of this process. In an effort to listen to our members’ perspectives and concerns, we ask you to answer some questions about this topic and about your overall Scouting experiences.”

The BSA’s national council is expected to vote during its annual meeting in Grapevine in May on whether to lift the organization’s ban on gay Scouts and leaders.

View more questions from the survey below. (Click to enlarge.)

—  John Wright

Petition calls for United Way to denounce Boy Scouts’ gay ban

UnitedWayThe Boy Scouts of America’s national council is expected to vote during its annual meeting in Grapevine in May on whether to lift the organization’s ban on gay Scouts and leaders. But in the meantime, LGBT advocacy groups are keeping up the pressure on the Irving-based BSA.

Today, GLAAD reported that Greg Bourke, a Kentucky father who was ousted as a leader of his son’s Scout troop in 2012 for being gay, has launched a Change.org petition calling for local United Way chapters to cut off funding for the Scouts.

“Despite the protest of my troop, my church, and my community, the Boy Scouts message was clear: gay youth and parents are inferior, and not welcome,” Bourke’s petition states. “That’s an incredibly dangerous message to send to young people in our community, so I’m asking United Way, which is a major donor to the Boy Scouts, to denounce this hurtful anti-gay policy.”

GLAAD notes that it’s up to individual United Way chapters whether to support the Scouts, and some have already chosen to cut off funding over the gay ban. In Dallas, the United Way of Greater Dallas has continued giving money to the Scouts, to the tune of more than $300,000 in 2011.

“The welfare of the individuals served by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is always our highest priority,” United Way of Metropolitan Dallas spokeswoman Michelle Frith told Dallas Voice for an article last October. “As an organization, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas adheres to an anti-discrimination policy for its hiring practices. While we require our grantees to comply with all related federal laws, we do not require anyone to adopt our own internal operating policies.”

The strategy of going after the Boys Scouts’ donors has been successful in getting companies like UPS and Intel to cut off funding. Let’s hope that it works with the United Way too. If not, LGBT people should consider cutting off donations to the United Way. After all, would you still support an organization that contributed money to a racist group, even if the organization did a lot of other good things?

—  John Wright

Mayor Rawlings’ office on the Boy Scouts: ‘Their model is out of date’

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Mayor Mike Rawlings

This morning I caught up with Paula Blackmon, chief of staff for Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, and asked whether the mayor has a position on the Boy Scouts of America’s proposal to lift its national ban on gay Scouts and leaders. The BSA’s National Executive Board, which is meeting in Irving this week, is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to lift the ban and instead leave it up to local Scout troops whether to allow gays.

Blackmon said she recently discussed the issue with Rawlings and was speaking based on her conversation with him. She stopped short of saying the Scouts should lift the gay ban but indicated repeatedly that the mayor believes the BSA needs to take a hard look at its current policy.

“We never like to tell people how to run their organization,” Blackmon said, adding that the mayor did have some insight for the Scouts.

“When you see a dropoff in your customers or people participating in your program, then obviously your model of doing things is not what the market allows, it’s not what people want,” she said. “With that being said, they need to take a hard look at their policy, and they need to be pretty honest.

“He’s never going to be the one to say, ‘Such and such needs to do this, or such and such needs to do that,’” Blackmon said. “They need to take a very hard look at that policy.

“I hope it doesn’t take the mayor telling them to change. I think 1.4 million signatures is a pretty loud statement,” Blackmon said, referring to the petitions that were dropped off at BSA headquarters on Monday.

“To deny somebody an Eagle Scout award because of their sexual orientation, that does more harm … That doesn’t fit with their mission — to create strong leaders in the community,” she said. “I don’t necessarily think it’s going to take the mayor saying, ‘Lift this ban.’ I think [it's] the mayor saying, ‘You need to think really hard and look where you want to go and what you want to look like and where you are.’ … Their model is out of date.”

—  John Wright

GOP lawmakers sign letter opposing BSA policy change; prayer rally set

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Dozens of state representatives, senators and other elected officials have come out against the Boy Scouts of America’s proposal to remove its national gay ban.

Anti-gay group Texas Values published a letter signed by more than 30 Republican elected officials across the state — from Ag Commissioner Todd Staples to Collin County Judge Keith Self — that urges the organization “to stick with their decades of support for family values and moral principles.”

“Scouts begin each meeting with an Oath, ‘to do my duty, to God and my country, to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight,’” the letter reads in part. “By caving in to pressure from the social left, the national leadership would violate each of those principles.”

Texas Values has planned a “Save Our Scouts” prayer vigil and rally at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the BSA’s national headquarters in Irving.

The group is encouraging citizens from “every walk of life who cares about the moral fabric of our nation and all that the Boy Scouts of America has stood for since 1910” to attend the rally.

The National Executive Board is expected to vote on the proposed change Wednesday.

BSA has been inundated with phone calls and emails from people voicing their opinion on lifting the ban since last week. Spokesman Deron Smith declined to give the number of calls or emails, but said the BSA was receiving feedback, not taking a poll.

Read the full Texas Values letter, as well as the list of signers, below.

—  Dallasvoice

WATCH: Gay Scouts, leaders deliver petitions to BSA headquarters

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Jennifer Tyrrell speaks about having to leave her position with the Boy Scouts like other parents who are gay. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Below is a video from today’s delivery of four Change.org petitions started by gay Scouts to the BSA’s Irving headquarters.

Former den mother Jennifer Tyrrell and assistant Scoutmaster Greg Bourke spoke about their leadership experiences in the Boy Scouts and the hardship of having to step down from their positions because of their sexual orientation.

Perhaps the most powerful speech was given by Eric Andresen, the father of a gay Scout who was denied his Eagle Scout Award after coming out. Andresen spoke about how painful it is to be a parent and watch your son be denied an award he had worked for over several years only to see him not receive it because of the Scouts’ gay ban.

Watch it below.

—  Dallasvoice

BREAKING: Gay Scouts, leaders deliver petitions

Gay Scouts and leaders deliver boxes with 1.4 million signatures from combined Change.org petitions requesting the Boy Scouts end its national no-gays ban on Feb. 4. BSA’s Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on a policy change Feb. 6. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Gay Scouts and leaders deliver boxes with 1.4 million signatures from combined Change.org petitions requesting the Boy Scouts end its national no-gays ban on Monday. BSA’s Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on a policy change Feb. 6. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO FROM THE PRESS CONFERENCE

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

While the Boy Scouts Board of Directors met in Irving on Monday morning, four Scout leaders from across the country converged on BSA headquarters to deliver 1.4 million petition signatures urging the group to lift its ban on gay Scouts and leaders.

A representative from BSA was scheduled to meet with the group sometime Monday morning. When no representative appeared by 12:30 p.m., the Scouts placed the boxes of signatures at the base of the Scouting statute near the front door of BSA headquarters. A representative later came out and picked up the signatures after most members of the media had left.

Mark Anthony Dingbaum, organizing manager from Change.org, called the campaigns that resulted in 1.4 million signatures among his organization’s most successful.

“Behind all successful campaigns are powerful personal stories,” he said before introducing the Scouting leaders.

Jennifer Tyrrell, the Cub Scout mom who delivered 300,000 signatures to the Boy Scouts in July asking to be reinstated as a den mother, said she was back under much better circumstances. She recounted the day she was dismissed from the Scouts.

“We were working on a conservation project for a state park the day I was removed,” she said. “The letter said I did not meet the high standards of the Boy Scouts of America.”

Greg Bourke was an assistant Scoutmaster who was removed after serving for 10 years. He has been partnered for 30 years and has two children involved in Scouting. His partner and children were in Dallas with him.

He said last year after telling his council he is gay, he was asked to resign immediately. He has received overwhelming support from his troop, other Scout parents and even the Catholic church that sponsors his troop.

“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,” he said.

Will Oliver, 20, is a gay Eagle Scout who began a petition on Change.org asking National Geographic channel to to condemn the Boy Scouts discrimination policy. Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout? is scheduled to air on the National Geographic channel in March.

Oliver, who is from Massachusetts and remains in good standing with the Scouts, said one of the values Scouting taught him is not to stand by passively in the face of injustice.

“Discrimination doesn’t happen in my troop,” he said. “My council has a nondiscrimination policy.”

He said sexual orientation really doesn’t have a place in scouting and called the Scouts his refuge from the pressure of dating that he felt in school and elsewhere.

Oliver is in school at Northwestern University and met his mother and two of his brothers in Dallas. He said he was missing a test today at school but his professor, who had also been a Scout, encouraged him to make the trip and told him he could make up the exam “anytime.”

Eric Andresen represented his son at BSA headquarters. His son was refused his Eagle award after completing the requirements and then coming out.

Andresen said his son did an anti-bullying project in school for his Eagle merit project and called it ironic that the Boy Scouts turned out to be the biggest bullies his son would have to face.

“It hurts to watch what Ryan has had to go through,” he said. “Two years ago he made a big mistake. He was honest.”

The Boy Scouts board is expected to vote on whether to soften their ban on gays on Wednesday.

Brad Hankins, Campaign Director for Scouts for Equality, represented the group in Dallas today. The group was founded by Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout raised by two moms.

Scouts for Equality group is responsible for campaigns last fall that caused several major corporate donors to stop funding the Boy Scouts.

“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.”

Several community members were at Boy Scout headquarters to greet the Scouts who had come to Dallas for the delivery of petitions.

Mark “Major” Jiminez, who was arrested twice at Dallas County Records Building when he tried to obtain a marriage license with his husband, was surprised the Boy Scouts were considering a change in policy so soon after announcing the results of a two-year study last summer. Without releasing any details of the study, the Scouts said they’d concluded they needed to maintain the current ban on gays.

“I never expected to see this in my life,” Jiminez said. “I thought they’d close their doors first.”

More photos below.

—  David Taffet

Gov. Perry, President Obama weigh in on proposed BSA policy change

The Human Rights Campaign took out a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News on Monday to encourage the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board to add a nondiscrimination policy.

Today the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board will begin discussing a proposed policy change to allow local troops to decide to let in gay Scouts and leaders.

A decision on whether remove the national gay ban is expected Wednesday.

Lesbian former den mother Jennifer Tyrrell will be at the Scouts’ Irving headquarters at 11 a.m. to deliver petitions started by her, gay Eagle Scout Will Oliver, gay former Scoutmaster Greg Bourke, and Eric Andresen, father of a gay Scout denied his Eagle Award. The petitions have garnered 1.4 million combined signatures.

The issue has brought about heated debates on both sides as some people are against the decision while others think it doesn’t go far enough. The Human Rights Campaign took out a full-page ad in today’s Dallas Morning News, above, encouraging the board to go beyond removing the no-gays requirement and adding a national nondiscrimination policy.

Gov. Rick Perry chimed in this weekend while addressing hundreds of Scouts at the state House during the Texas Scouts’ 64th annual Report to State.

Perry, an Eagle Scout, told reporters his views on homosexuality haven’t changed his writing his book, On My Honor: Why the American Values of the Boy Scouts Are Worth Fighting For, and hoped the national position would remain the same.

“Hopefully the board will follow their historic position of keeping the Scouts strongly supportive of the values that make scouting this very important and impactful organization,” Perry said.

President Barack Obama also spoke about the issue during a pre-Super Bowl interview, calling scouting a “great institution” that should welcome gay members and leaders. He said the organization provided youth with lifelong leadership and character building training and “no one should be barred from that.”

Watch the clip of Obama below.

—  Dallasvoice