‘It’s acceptable to be gay now’

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MIXED EMOTIONS | Ousted lesbian den mother Jennifer Tyrrell, left, and gay Scout Pascal Tessier speak during a press conference Thursday, May 23, at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, after the Boy Scouts of America announced it had voted to lift its ban on gay youth. Despite the vote, the Irving-based BSA will continue to bar gay adult leaders and employees. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Out Scouts, leaders celebrate BSA’s decision to lift ban on gay youth, but vow to keep fighting until LGBT leaders, employees can also serve

ANNA WAUGH  |  News Editor

GRAPEVINE — Gay youth members of the Boy Scouts of America will no longer face being kicked out because of their sexual orientation after BSA leadership voted to lift a 22-year ban.

The 1,400 members of the BSA’s National Council passed a resolution Thursday, May 23, requiring troops everywhere to welcome gay youth.

The historic vote comes more than a year after Ohio den mother Jennifer Tyrrell was removed from her position for being gay. Her removal created a national outrage and launched a national campaign with GLAAD to end the ban.
Cheers rang out as Tyrrell and others gathered in Grapevine hugged each other and cried after learning the result of the vote, which passed with more than 60 percent support. Family and friends shook their heads in joyful disbelief that years of work had paid off. Tyrrell called the resolution’s passage a first step, but said she and others will continue to push for full inclusion. The BSA will continue to ban gay adult leaders like Tyrrell, as well as LGBT employees.

“We will continue until there’s equality for all,” Tyrrell said, adding that her son, Cruz, is the reason she fights. “The Boy Scouts still tell him his moms aren’t good enough. Everyday they tell him his family is different and that’s not OK. He has a great family. He’s very loved. The BSA needs to recognize that they’re hurting him and others like him.”

Paschal Tessier, a gay Maryland Scout who faced not receiving his Eagle Scout Award because of the ban, was overcome with joy. He called his older brother, who is a gay Eagle Scout, to tell him the news back home. But he said the organization hasn’t solved the issue of equality because gay leaders are still barred from BSA ranks.

“It’s acceptable to be gay now,” he said. “But they’re trying to solve one form of discrimination with another. The adults in this that actually made this happen, now they’re not going to able to be Scouts like I am.”
Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, said the fight is renewed to include gay adults leaders like his two moms who were involved with him in Scouting.

“It’s a step in the right direction, but our fight goes on,” Wahls said.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin issued a statement calling this “a historic day for Boy Scouts across the country who want to be a part of this great American institution.”

“But the new policy doesn’t go far enough,” he added. “Parents and adults of good moral character, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to volunteer their time to mentor the next generation of Americans.”

HRC also noted that the Boy Scouts still bans gay employees and called for the organization to adopt an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policy across the board.

Resource Center Dallas CEO Cece Cox called Thursday’s vote a “half-measure.”

“It is a step forward from their previous position, but not a full solution,” she said. ” It tells gay Scouts that they can take part in their troops, but once they reach adulthood, they will be denied the ability to lead. It also excludes open LGBT adult leadership in the Scouts, thereby maintaining a system of ‘less-than’ status. Scouting should not rest and pat itself on the back for only lifting the ban on gay Scouts; they should take the next step and lift it for adult leadership as well.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican who has been outspoken in support of the ban, said he was “greatly disappointed with the decision.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins echoed Perry’s comments.

“It is clear that the current BSA leadership will bend with the winds of popular culture, and the whims of liberal special interest groups,” Perkins said in a statement. “There is little doubt that God will soon be ushered out of scouting. Now is the time for new leadership. In the meantime, we will stand with those BSA Councils who will now act to protect boys from a new policy that only creates moral confusion and disrespects the views of the vast majority of Scouting parents.”

The decision takes effect Jan. 1, 2014. A task force to help with the implementation was already been created.
Wahls said his organization will ensure the policy goes into effect and be a watchdog over councils in the event that gay Scouts face discrimination.

Leading up to the vote, dozens of protesters held signs outside the Gaylord Texan that read “No on the resolution” to greet council members meeting there.

Across the street at the Great Wolf Lodge, gay Scouts and allies held an Equal Scouting Summit, sharing emotional stories about the negative impact of the gay ban and how changing it would help Scouting survive in America.

The Boy Scouts ban on gay Scouts and leaders began in 1991 when the organization determined open homosexuals went against the part of the Scout Oath that mandates members be “morally straight.”

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ban in a 2000 case when justices ruled that the private organization could choose its membership.

Even though gay Scouts have been kicked out and leaders removed for being gay, many still continued to serve quietly or with the approval of their local troop.

After Tyrrell was removed, AT&T CEO Randall Stevenson and Ernest & Young CEO Jim Turley, members of BSA’s Executive Board, then joined forces to discuss the ban in February. The board decided to postpone a decision until the National Council could vote.

The compromise to only allow gay youth was announced in April after the organization surveyed parents and leaders. But with 70 percent of troops chartered by faith-based organizations, the debate continued to draw backlash from conservatives. The Mormon and the Roman Catholic churches came out in favor of the compromise.

—  Anna Waugh

WATCH: Scenes from Wednesday’s Equal Scouting Summit

Eric Hay, who earned his Eagle Scout through Dallas-based Circle Ten Council, speaks about how he left Boy Scouts after he came out and was not allowed to be an adult leader. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Eric Hay, who earned his Eagle Scout through Dallas-based Circle Ten Council, speaks about how he left Boy Scouts after he came out and was not allowed to be an adult leader. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The Boy Scouts of America will announce a historic vote this afternoon after the 1,400 members of its National Council weigh in on whether gay youth should be allowed to participate the organization.

LGBT advocates for the change and protesters were in Grapevine on Wednesday to voice their opinions on the compromise to welcome gay Scouts but not adult leaders.

BSA President Wayne Perry had an op-ed in USA Today on Wednesday that called for the measure’s passage, saying BSA “policies must be based on what is in the best interest of our nation’s children.”

Watch video from Wednesday’s Equal Scouting Summit below.

—  Anna Waugh

Gay Scouts call for end to ban in advance of National Council vote

Gay Scouts and leaders participate in panel about how the Boy Scouts’ gay ban affected them during the Equal Scouting Summit in Grapevine on May 22, 2013. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

Gay Scouts and leaders participate in a panel about how the Boy Scouts’ gay ban affected them, during the Equal Scouting Summit in Grapevine on Thursday. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

ANNA WAUGH  |  News Editor

GRAPEVINE — LGBT advocates called on the Boy Scouts of America Wednesday afternoon to pass a resolution that would welcome gay youth into its ranks, so the organization can remain relevant in an accepting America.

In a crowded meeting room at the Great Wolf Lodge, dozens of advocates for the resolution listened to two panels of leaders and Scouts who’d been affected by the national gay ban during the first day of the Equal Scouting Summit.

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality, spoke about his time in the Scouts with his two moms. He said the push for inclusive Scouting has grown over the past year, adding that full inclusion of gay leaders also needs to happen with a BSA nondiscrimination policy.

“It is clear that if Scouting is not willing to move forward on this issue, it will be left behind,” Wahls said, adding that Scouting is too much of an American institution to lose it over hate. “We cannot afford to lose this great cultural icon.”

Maryland Scout Pascal Tessier will be directly affected by the vote the National Council takes Thursday. He is months away from receiving his Eagle Scout Award, only having to complete his leadership service project over the summer to be eligible. But his being an openly gay Scout will prevent him from receiving an honor he’s worked toward since he was 7.

Tessier said he was told that his council likely would not approve the award if the resolution fails. And he will miss out on the joy of receiving the honor that his older brother, who is also gay, received years ago.

“Being gay doesn’t define who I am,” he said. “But because I want to stand up for what I believe is right, I won’t be able to get my Eagle Scout Award like my brother did.”

Tessier told Dallas Voice that he didn’t even think about being kicked out when he decided to come out as a gay Scout, wanting to “put a voice to the people who can’t come out.”

“I thought I should be here for all people that can’t,” he said.

—  Anna Waugh

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for coverage of Boy Scouts meeting in Grapevine

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Supporters of lifting the ban on gay youth in the Boy Scouts will convene today for the first day of a three-day Equal Scouting Summit in Grapevine.

At noon, Eagle Scout Dave McGrath and his son will arrive at the Great Wolf Lodge, 100 Great Wolf Drive, completing their 1,800 mile Bike for Equality campaign that began when they left Idaho Falls on May 3.

McGrath, Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls and Inclusive Scouting Network founder Mark Noel will address the audience.

Gay Scouts and leaders will then speak, including former Ohio den mother Jennifer Tyrrell, gay Eagle Scout Will Oliver, Greg Bourke, a gay dad removed from his position as Scoutmaster with his son’s troop, and Pascal Tessier, a gay Boy Scout who was told he would not be eligible to earn the Eagle award his older brother received.

Events for the summit will take place today at the Great Wolf Lodge in Fallen Timber A Meeting Room. They are expected to conclude around 2 p.m.

Across the street at the Gaylord Texan, where the roughly 1,400 members of the BSA’s National Council will vote on the resolution tomorrow, opponents of allowing gays Scouts will protest at Texas Values’ Save Our Scouts rally from noon to 4 p.m.

Dallas Voice will be in Grapevine to capture all the excitement and will be tweeting live from the press conferences and rally. Follow us on Twitter here.

Yesterday 20 members of Congress signed a letter supporting the resolution to welcome gay youth into the BSA. Among them was Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth.

“As part of its mission, the BSA seeks to instill traditionally American values of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion of others in youth scouts in preparation for the responsibilities of citizenship,” the letter reads in part. “Today, BSA has a policy that excludes gay Scouts and Scout leaders from participating. This is counter to BSA’s mission to teach our youth to combat discrimination. We are pleased to learn that the National Council will soon take up a resolution at the May 22nd meeting to update its membership standards policy. We strongly urge the BSA to pass the proposed resolution to end discrimination against gay youth.”

Read the full letter here.

—  Anna Waugh

Kessler Park UMC backs Boy Scouts’ proposal to allow gay youth

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Kessler Park United Methodist Church has made its stance on inclusion in the Boy Scouts clear to its members today.

The church posted on its Facebook that it hoped the National Council votes this week to “adopt the resolution eliminating heterosexuality as a requirement for a youth’s participation in scouting.”

Troop 5 is charted by the church and is one of the oldest troops in Dallas. Methodist churches are the second-largest sponsors of troops nationwide.

“Our church, we would assert, has long experience attempting to reconcile diversity, security, and godliness,” the post reads. “We believe that Christ’s teachings, as well as the Scout Oath and Law which flow from Christ’s words, call us to welcome all persons of good will in the training of children to become wholesome adults.”

The BSA National Council will vote on the resolution to only admit gay youth at its meeting later this week.

Read Kessler Park UMC’s full statement below.

—  Anna Waugh

Equal Scouting Summit to take place next week when BSA discusses gay ban

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Scouts for Equality and the Inclusive Scouting Network are holding a national Equal Scouting Summit next week while the Boy Scouts’ National Council debates whether or not to allow gay youth.

The event will bring together national leaders and discuss how to make the BSA more inclusive moving forward. Jennifer Tyrrell, Zach Wahls, Greg Bourke, Will Oliver and Eagle Scout Dave McGrath, who is biking 1,800 miles with his son for equality, are among the speakers.

The Voice of the Gay Scout project will also be a part of the summit. Gay Scouts are encouraged to send letters about what they would say to members of the BSA’s National Council. Scouts and allies will bring the letters to the National Council and read them aloud. Letters can be sent to voice@inclusivescouting.net.

The summit is May 22-24 at the Great Wolf Lodge, 100 Great Wolf Drive in Grapevine.

For more information or to RSVP, go here.

—  Anna Waugh

Ernst & Young CEO on why he ‘needed to speak out’ against BSA gay ban

Jim Turley

Jim Turley

Sharing his story with Businessweek, Ernst & Young’ CEO Jim Turley talks about why he finally decided to speak out against the Boy Scouts’ ban against gay Scouts and leaders.

Although he didn’t want to be a spokesman for the BSA, when former Ohio den mother Jen Tyrrell was ousted from her position last year, Turley said he joined forces with AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson to oppose the ban.

“I don’t think it will lead the Scouts to be as robust and successful for the youth of the country as it can be,” he said. “It’s not a policy I subscribe to. It’s something we know we need to wrestle with.”

Both companies have a 100 percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, and Turley said he worried the association with the BSA would harm his company, which values diversity.

News of Randall and Turley’s urge for the National Executive Board to change the policy in February led to a media firestorm and a delay until the National Council could vote in May.

Turley said the compromise that will be voted on May 22 to allow only gay youth was a “substantial and significant change,” even though he wished “we’d gone further this time.”

“I’m hopeful and optimistic that some change will take place,” he said. “I do not think that this should or will be the end of the debate.”

—  Anna Waugh

New poll shows majority of Americans oppose Boy Scouts’ ban on gays

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In a new Washington Post and ABC News poll, a majority of respondents favor the Boy Scouts’ proposed resolution to admit gay Scouts but not leaders.

Meanwhile, of the 1,008 adults surveyed from May 1 to 5, 63 percent support admitting gay Scouts while 56 percent of respondents oppose continuing to ban gay Scout leaders.

The results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout and Scouts for Equality founder, said the results are encouraging and the group will work with supporters over the next two weeks before 1,400 members of the BSA’s national council vote on the compromise.

“Today’s Washington Post/ABC News poll demonstrates that there is overwhelming support in this country for the Boy Scouts of America’s effort to end discrimination within its organization. 63 percent of adults agree with Scouts for Equality that it is time that all scouts be treated as equal,” Wahls said in a statement. “This is why over the next two weeks leading up to the historic vote on May 23rd, we will work with our partners and over 11,000 members to do everything we can to make this a reality. The poll also demonstrates that the majority of Americans agree that while is this is a critical step, this fight cannot and will not end until every scout, scout leader and parent are welcome making BSA the strongest it has ever been.”

The poll also found 68 percent of people support NBA star Jason Collins’ decision to come out. And 55 percent support allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

—  Anna Waugh

Gov. Rick Perry compares support for BSA gay ban to opposition of slavery

Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry is still adamant about his opposition to gay youth and leaders in the Boy Scouts.

While the decision to allow gay youth into the organization will be voted on later this month, Perry appeared on the anti-gay Family Research Council’s Stand With Scouts Sunday show yesterday to voice his disdain for gay Scouts.

He appeared from the library in the governor’s mansion, and compared the gay ban to slavery, saying the BSA should reject pop culture like the greatest governor in Texas’s history, Gov. Sam Houston, opposed slavery.

“That’s the type of principled leadership, that’s the type of courage that I hope people across this country on this issue of Scouts and keeping the Boy Scouts the organization that it is today,” he said. “If we change and become more like pop culture, young men will be not as well served. America will not be as well served, and Boy Scouts will start on a decline that I don’t think will serve this country well as we go into the future.”

Perry also said he hopes the push for LGBT equality as the “flavor of the month” won’t override the BSA’s moral history.

“I know there are those in the world today that would tear that apart. But the fact is this is a private organization,” Perry said. “Their values and principles have worked for a century now. And for pop culture to come in and try to tear that up because it just happens to be, you know, the flavor of the month so to speak and to tear apart one of the great organizations that have served millions of young men, helped them to become men and become great fathers. That is just not appropriate. Frankly, I hope the American people will stand up and say, ‘Not on my watch.’”

Watch the video below.

—  Anna Waugh

New group defending Scouts’ gay ban, On My Honor, lies on its website

Greg Bourke

Greg Bourke

In advance of a meeting of 1,400 Boy Scout leaders in May, hundreds of leaders met in Orlando to oppose any change to the organization’s ban on gays. They’ve formed a new group called On My Honor.

The website’s three main sections are Impact on Scouts, Email the BSA and Local Efforts. The “impact” section begins with the inaccurate statement, “Current BSA policy is time-tested and fair, allowing anyone to participate regardless of sexual orientation.”

Any Scout or Scout leader that is found to be gay is dismissed from the organization. An example is Ryan Andresen, a California teen who was denied his Eagle Scout award after Scout leaders learned his sexual orientation last year. Jen  Tyrell is a den mother who was dismissed when her sexual orientation became known.

On My Honor makes clear elsewhere on its site that its goal is to continue opposition to any gay participation in the organization.

“OnMyHonor.net is the official coalition of concerned parents, Scout Leaders, Scouting Donors, Eagle Scouts and others affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America who are united in their support of Scouting’s timeless values and their opposition to open homosexuality in the Scouts,” it says.

The “Local Efforts” section is looking for volunteers.

“Volunteer to become a local leader or state spokesperson in your area and help protect 103 years of tradition,” it says.

The 103-year tradition of discrimination? Or the 103-year tradition of being honest, which they violate in the previous statement about allowing anyone to participate regardless of sexual orientation?

The Scouts meet in Grapevine in May to discuss and vote on changing the policy to local option. And the policy the organization describes as “historic” dates to 1991. Interesting that a new group had to form because the Scouts aren’t doing enough to preserve their exclusionary policies.

—  David Taffet