WATCH: Emotional reaction to Boy Scouts’ decision to lift ban on gay youth

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Ousted lesbian den mother Jennifer Tyrrell hugs her son Cruz after learning the results of the Boy Scouts vote to allow gay youth. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

It was a touching scene in Grapevine Thursday when LGBT advocates who’ve worked for inclusion in the Boy Scouts were able to celebrate the victory of coming closer to their goal.

The BSA will begin allowing openly gay Scouts in January, but the ban on gay leaders will remain in place.

Those who’ve fought for full inclusion said they’re focus will remain on the Scouts until all gays are welcome in the organization.

Former den mother Jennifer Tyrrell said that in a year the American people were able to tell the BSA that they wanted the policy to change, so she has hope that the voices of allies will continue to be heard in the future.

Watch the video below.

—  Dallasvoice

‘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.

—  Dallasvoice

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.

—  Dallasvoice

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.

—  Dallasvoice

Not all gays want BSA to lift ban

scoutsLocal gay man Eli Hernandez is against the Boy Scouts of America ending its national gay ban.

Hernandez sent a statement to Dallas Voice today that states he is against including gays and lesbians in the organization because the “Scouts is not a place where a child should learn about sex or sexuality – whether gay or straight.”

“My position on this issue is simple – the Scouts is a place for children to learn leadership, character, physical fitness and citizenship,” Hernandez writes. “It’s a place where kids can be themselves, and learn from other kids and responsible adults.”

Luckily for Hernandez, the BSA National Executive Board postponed its decision on the policy change until May so its members have more time to hear feedback from councils, citizens and sponsors.

“While the Boy Scouts of America debates this issue, I do hope that they consider the needs of children first and not cave into liberals and the narrow gay agenda,” Hernandez said.

Read Hernandez’s full statement below.

—  Dallasvoice

BREAKING: Boy Scouts delay vote on gay ban

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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. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

IRVING — The Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board has delayed a vote on removing the national gay ban.

The decision came early in the third day of the board’s three-day meeting at the DFW Airport Marriott. A possible vote was expected today, but the board has decided to discuss the issue more at its national board meeting in May where 1,400 members will vote on a resolution. That meeting will take place May 22 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine.

“After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the Scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review of its membership policy,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement. “To that end, the National Executive Board directed its committees to further engage representatives of Scouting’s membership and listen to their perspectives and concerns. This will assist the officers’ work on a resolution on membership standards.”

Cece Cox, CEO of Resource Center Dallas, said she doesn’t believe this is the end of the issue and urged people working with the Scouts to redouble their efforts.

“The Center is disappointed that the Boy Scouts of America and its board of directors are deferring a decision until May on whether or not to repeal a ban that continues to force gay Scouts and LGBT Scout leaders to lie about who they are,” Cox said. “The ban is a relic of discrimination and disinformation; it should be on the ash heap of history.  We urge the Boy Scout board to stand for equality and fairness and join the ranks of both corporate American and the American people who value their lesbian and gay employees, friends and neighbors.”

The Human Rights Campaign said the delay meant that more action is needed to sway the BSA toward an inclusive policy. HRC originally supported the proposed policy to allow local troops to decide whether to admit gay Scouts and leaders, but later called for a national nondiscrimination policy to protect gay members and leaders in every troop.

—  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

Boy Scouts seek input on gay ban

Those who want the Boy Scouts to end — or at least soften — their ban on gays can now call or email the organization to voice their opinion.

Calls are being answered at the National Service Desk at 972-580-2330. A representative will answer and ask if you are for or against the policy change.

Emails are also being accepted at nationalsupportcenter@scouting.org.

The national executive board is slated to consider the policy change next Wednesday to allow local troops to decide whether or not to welcome gay members and leaders.

—  Dallasvoice

Boys Scouts to discuss ending gay ban

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Ousted lesbian den leader Jennifer Tyrrell delivers petitions calling for an end to the Boy Scouts’ gay ban at the group’s headquarters in Irving in July. (Anna Waugh/Dallas Voice)

The Boy Scouts of America may end its anti-gay ban as early as next week.

The Board of Directors will discuss removing the anti-gay language from the national organization’s rules at its meeting next week, allowing local chapters to decide whether to allow gay members or Scout leaders.

In recent months, UPS, Intel and Merck have pulled their funding of the organization because of the discrimination.

A BSA official told NBC News that more companies had threatened to pull funding if the ban was not lifted.

BSA spokesman Deron Smith released a statement about the policy change.

“Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation,” the statement reads in part. “This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.”

In July, ousted Cub Scout mom Jennifer Tyrrell brought her Change.org petition to the Irving headquarters. Days before BSA officials said a two-year examination of the anti-gay policy found that the ban was in the best interest of the organization.

Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation released a statement praising the discussion and calling for a change in policy.

“The Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “Scouting is a valuable institution and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect.”

Read the full release below.

—  Dallasvoice

A day before ousted lesbian mom visits Dallas, Boy Scouts reaffirm gay ban

Jennifer Tyrrell

The Boy Scouts announced Tuesday it will stick with its ban on gay Scouts and leaders, claiming that the announcement follows a two-year study.

The announcement, coincidentally, takes place days after Dallas Voice’s cover story about the discriminatory policy and a day after ousted Scout leader Jennifer Tyrrell announced a visit to the group’s headquarters in Irving on Wednesday.

According to the Associated Press, “An 11-member special committee, formed discreetly by top Scout leaders in 2010, ‘came to the conclusion that this policy is absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts.’”

In a statement, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin called the Boy Scouts’ decision to reaffirm the policy “a missed opportunity of colossal proportions.”

“With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued,” Griffin said. ‘These adults could have taught the next generation of leaders the value of respect, yet they’ve chosen to teach division and intolerance.”

NGLTF Deputy executive Director Darlene Nipper said she was deeply disappointed and that discrimination is never the right policy.

“Clinging to a policy of exclusion and intolerance is hardly a good lesson for our young people,” Nipper said. “Once again, officials of the Boy Scouts of America have turned their backs on a chance to demonstrate fairness, exercise sound judgment, and serve as a role model for valuing others, free of bias and prejudice.”

Tyrrell is coming to Dallas with a representative from Change.org and plans to deliver a petition with 300,000 signatures that calls for an end to the ban on gays in the Scouts. Tyrrell and Change.org’s Mark Anthony Dingbaum will be at Boy Scouts headquarters on Walnut Hill Lane in Irving on Wednesday at 10 a.m. to deliver the petition.

They also hope to meet with AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson to present a petition urging him to be proactive in making a change within the Boy Scouts. Stephenson is in line to become president of the Boy Scouts in 2014.

The AP story claims that Stephenson “will likely face continued pressure from gay-rights groups to try to end the exclusion policy.” But within AT&T, Stephenson’s policies have been for inclusion and equality. Last year, he instituted a review of all policies to make sure LGBT employees in the various segments of the company that have come together through merger have benefits equal to straight employees.

The BSA has shown how serious it is about adhering to its policy.

On Sunday, Eagle Scout Eric Jones, 19, was kicked out of the Scouts after he came out to the director of the summer camp in Missouri. He was immediately removed from the camp.

Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts, didn’t return calls seeking comment Tuesday morning.

The Boys Scouts full statement reaffirming the group’s ban on gays is after the jump.

—  David Taffet