The last six months haven’t been kind to the Irving-based Boy Scouts of America. A petition to reinstate a rural Ohio Cub Scout leader presented to the organization in July led to at least three major corporations pulling support that totaled more than three-quarters of a million dollars.
A year earlier, lesbian Jen Tyrrell began leading her son’s Cub Scout troop. When she was asked to move up to the regional office, she quickly found financial irregularities. Rather than respond to the money allegations, she was suddenly dismissed because she’s a lesbian.
In the wake of a Dallas Voice cover story on the Scouts, Tyrrell and Change.org decided it was time to deliver a petition to reinstate her that had already gathered 300,000 signatures.
Meanwhile, the new president of the Boy Scouts, who is also the CEO of AT&T, thought it might be time the organization bring its policies in line with most major corporations. His thoughts and those of the Boy Scouts’ honorary president, Barack Obama, were quickly overruled.
Between the time that the DV story was published and the time Tyrrell arrived in Dallas, the Boy Scouts announced the results of a two-year study that indicated it needed to maintain their policy of exclusion for the good of the organization.
When conclusions of the study were released in conjunction with Tyrrell’s visit, Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, wondered who the members of this panel were, where the minutes of the meetings were and where the study was.
Deron Smith, spokesman for the Boy Scouts, never denied that the organization had simply lied and made up the entire study when asked by Wahls.
Instead, he stopped talking to the press and the Boy Scouts hired a public relations firm to handle the ensuing PR nightmare.
By August, a steady stream of Eagle Scouts, among the Boy Scouts biggest group of individual donors, had returned their badges.
While the Boy Scouts dug in their heels, Scouts for Equality began contacting the organization’s major funders. Its first success came with Intel, which changed its donation policy to only fund those nonprofits that have gay-inclusive nondiscrimination policies.
Next, after prompting from Wahls, UPS decided it was time to bring its giving policies in line with its own corporate culture.
In December, without any apparent outside influence, Merck announced it was suspending support of organizations that discriminate.
Meanwhile, as Tyrrell’s petition gathers more signatures, the Boy Scouts continue to dig in their heels. In August, eight-year employee Timothy Griffin was fired from a California Boy Scout camp because he was gay and a 19-year-old Eagle Scout was fired from a Missouri Boy Scout camp.
In October, a California high school senior was denied his Eagle Scout award because he came out. And in Louisville, a leader was forced to step down from his son’s troop when he wrote to BSA executives in Irving protesting the policy and revealing he is gay.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 28, 2012.