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.