Lesbian mom is one of many LGBT people already serving as leaders, says she plans to resign if BSA doesn’t change policy next week
FORT WORTH — A lesbian Cub Scoutmaster recently took what she expects to be her last campout with her pack.
The Fort Worth leader told Dallas Voice she plans to resign from her post within the next month if the Boy Scouts of America doesn’t vote to allow gay youth members next week.
The organization was originally considering allowing gay Scouts and leaders in February, but postponed a decision until the National Council’s 1,400 members could vote. In April, the BSA said the council would consider a compromise allowing only gay youth at its meeting May 22-23 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine.
But the Cub Scoutmaster, who asked not to be identified because her partner still plans to be involved in their son’s troop, said she doubts the policy will change, and she plans to resign from her position if it doesn’t. She said she nearly resigned last year when a Boy Scout in California, Ryan Andresen, was denied his Eagle Scout Award because he came out as gay.
“I love the Boy Scouts, and I love what they stand for, but I can’t be a part of them teaching kids to hate gay people,” the Fort Worth Scoutmaster said.
Councils across the country have spoken out for and against the resolution to allow gay youth. Meanwhile, some leaders have already resigned because of the ban. And while many religious and gay rights groups are supporting the compromise, the Human Rights Campaign has pledged to continue advocacy until the BSA implements a nondiscrimination policy.
Gays have long been Scouts, leaders
The Fort Worth Cub Scoutmaster began volunteering as a den mother with her partner five years ago when their son joined Cub Scouts. When he moved onto a Boy Scout troop, she stayed with the Cub Scout pack, while her partner went on to become a leader in their son’s troop.
Taking over the pack two years ago, she said she inherited a handful of kids and a small amount of funds in an area where many of the kids come from low-income families. But she raised money through private donations to fund events for the pack, which has grown to more than 40 boys under her leadership.
Although her work has gained the respect of many volunteers from local packs and troops — many who know she is gay — she fears she would be removed if the regional council found out about her sexuality. And with little parent involvement in her pack, she worries about who would take over if she resigns. But she said she’s not sure she can continue to serve if gay leaders aren’t eventually welcome by the BSA.
“We give a lot of money and a lot of time to this program. I don’t want to continue to give my time and money to any organization that doesn’t consider me equal,” she said. “I have a real issue with them saying, ‘OK, yeah, you can be a Boy Scout until you’re 18 — and then you’re out.’”
Gays have served in silence or with the approval of their troops from the BSA’s beginning. Scouts and leaders have been kicked out when they came out or were outed. Ohio den mother Jennifer Tyrrell launched a national push last April when she was removed from her position for being gay. Two national BSA board members joined forces to end the ban, which has led to the proposed compromise.
Jon Langbert’s son belonged to a Dallas-area troop that allowed Langbert, who’s gay, to serve as popcorn colonel for two years, until parents complained about his sexual orientation in 2010. He was then removed from the position.
Langbert called the current proposal a “compromise in name only” because it says that some gays are OK, but gay leaders aren’t.
“It’s absolutely a step forward because it does solve the problem for gay boys that want to be in the Scouts,” he said. “It continues to send a very negative message about how they view gays.”
Langbert said many gay parents have served as Scout leaders over the years despite the national ban. But he said the ban serves as a deterrent to gays who want to join the BSA and also allows a way for anti-gay parents to get them removed.
“There are absolutely gay youth and leaders now serving in the closet, and some where their troops have never cared,” he said.
Leo Cusimano, Dallas Voice publisher, is an Eagle Scout and served as an assistant Scoutmaster. Now one of Cusimano’s sons is a Boy Scout in a special needs troop, where he regularly attends meetings and events. His troop has asked Cusimano to become more involved, but he said he declines because of the ban and will continue to until gay leaders are welcomed at the national level.
“Because of the ban, I’m not willing to immerse myself in volunteering for the Scouts,” he said. “I don’t wear the uniform, and I don’t take part in the troop committee.”
He also doesn’t attend council functions where he’d need to bring his partner. And even though he thinks not allowing gay leaders prevents talented LGBT parents from contributing to the organization, he said he wants his son to experience Scouting.
“I’m keeping my son in Scouting because I want him to have the same opportunities I did,” he said.
HRC calls proposal ‘a good start’
Religious leaders had threatened to sever ties with the BSA if the gay ban was lifted. But the compromise brought support from both conservatives and gay rights groups. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the country’s largest sponsor of Scout troops, praised the decision to welcome gay youth while maintaining the ban on gay leaders.
Many councils have voiced how they’ll vote next week. In Houston, the Sam Houston Area Council voted to oppose the compromise in April. The council, which covers 16 counties in southeast Texas, has 12 voting members.
“We have had an open and respectful discussion with regard to the various points of view on this complex issue. The Council will, as it always has, support and implement all policies of the Boy Scouts
of America, regardless of the outcome of the upcoming vote,” Board Chairman Rodney Eads said in a statement.
However, two North Texas councils are staying neutral.
Pat Currie, Scout executive at the Dallas-based Circle Ten Council, said the council is not making its opinion of the proposal public, but will follow whatever is decided.
“Our council’s position is that our role is to serve kids with a quality Scouting program and we intend to do that regardless of the outcome of the vote,” Currie said.
He said the council has seven voting officials and another six that are members of the board who will vote because of their volunteer positions. Circle Ten covers 12 counties in North Texas and Oklahoma.
John Coyle, Scouting executive for Hurst-based Longhorn Council, said his council is not taking a public stance either. The council serves 23 counties across Northwest Texas and will have eight voting members at the national meeting.
“We feel when the vote takes place, we need to follow it,” Coyle said, adding that councils who have taken a stance will still have to follow any change the national council approves. “Supposedly local units are going to need to allow youth to join regardless.”
The initial proposal in February would have allowed local troops to determine if they wanted to allow gay Scouts or leaders. But Coyle said after the BSA surveyed members and parents in March, it was determined that all troops should follow the same policy.
“Everyone kind of agreed that we need a consistent policy across the nation,” he said.
Gay rights organizations have praised the compromise as progress for the BSA.
Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, said that “passing the resolution is an important first step.”
He noted that this is the first time in the history of the Boy Scouts that it is considering allowing gays and said he hopes it will lead to more inclusion.
HRC spokesman Paul Guequierre said the organization is supporting the compromise, but it will continue to advocate for the BSA to add a nondiscrimination policy.
“It’s a good start, but it needs to go further,” he said.
Guequierre said HRC has decided to dock points on the Corporate Equality Index from companies who donate to the BSA even if the compromise passes. Beginning in 2015, companies will lose points for giving to anti-gay organizations, but the number of points deducted hasn’t been decided yet.
Ernst & Young CEO Jim Turley and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, whose companies both receive a perfect score on HRC’s CEI, joined forces last year to push for change to the policy as members of the BSA’s National Executive Board.
Several United Way chapters have stopped funding Boy Scout councils without nondiscrimination policies.
But United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has given Circle Ten Council grants from its Community Impact Fund over the years, including more than $300,000 in 2012. United Way of Metropolitan Dallas spokeswoman Michelle Frith told Dallas Voice its grant recipients would be announced May 24.
Lesbian leader vows to be heard
The Cub Scoutmaster is currently planning one last event with her Fort Worth pack before she plans to resign, but it all depends on the national council’s vote.
She said news has spread of her decision to quit the Scouts and the Scoutmaster of the troop her pack feeds into has asked her to come and serve with them because he doesn’t want to lose her. But she says she must take a stand if the BSA’s leadership continues to discriminate against gay youth.
“Until people stand up and say something and leave the program, the program’s not going to change,” she said.
Although she’s signed up to teach a youth volunteer class this summer, she said she’ll finish the school year out with her Cub Scouts and then go before her council so its members know exactly why she’s leaving.
“If they do not pass this vote, then I will absolutely go before my council’s roundtable and tell them why I’m leaving,” she said. “And I will be heard.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 17, 2013,