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.
Even if the resolution doesn’t pass, he’ll still complete the requirements for his Eagle Scout Award.
“I’m going to keep working toward it because the closer I am to it the more of an uproar it would cause if I’m so close to getting my Eagle and then they kick me out,” he said, adding that he’ll be disappointed if he isn’t able to receive it. “I’ll be devastated because I’ve been working toward it since I was 7. I would feel sort of betrayed and disappointed.”
Dave McGrath, an Eagle Scout who has a gay identical twin brother, was greeted with applause when he rode into Grapevine during the summit after biking more than 1,800 miles from Idaho Falls with his son, Joe, in protest of the gay ban. Two of McGrath’s six sons are gay, and he said he was riding for them and his brother and everyone that’s been discriminated against by the BSA.
“Our institutions which compel our children to grow up to not be who they find themselves to be, whom they discover themselves to be, cause irreparable harm,” McGrath said, adding that the ban must not continue. “This cannot be. We have to change it.”
His son, Joe, served in the Army and said the values in the Boy Scouts and the military both teach people how to be strong leaders. But he said the kicking gays out goes against those values.
“The Boy Scouts have great values. The Army has great values. And kicking people out like this is not part of any of these values,” Joe McGrath said. “We cannot allow our brothers, our family, to be kicked out the door.”
Former Ohio den mother Jen Tyrrell said she was surprised how much she loved Scouting with her son, Cruz. She was even more surprised when she was later removed for being gay. Her removal last year sparked two BSA board members to fight to change the national policy, which led to the impending vote.
“The very last person who expected to love Scouting was me,” Tyrrell said, tearing up as she glanced at her son. “We fell in love with Scouting.”
Tyrrell said despite the outcome of the vote, she’ll continue to fight for equality in the Scouts so “families that look like mine” won’t be discriminated against.
Dozens of supporters attended the Equal Scouting Summit, including gay Eagle Scout Eric Hay.
Hay said he’s been working with Dallas-based Circle Ten Council since April with a movement he’s called Circle Ten Equality.
Over the past several months, he’s called and emailed parents and Scout leaders about the gay ban and the need for inclusivity.
“I think there’s always enough people, especially Scouts, willing to change their mind,” he said. “It’s just sitting down and talking to them.”
But none of the local troops would allow him to speak to them, and the only response he received was from a leader who was against allowing gays.
Hay, 22, came out after receiving his Eagle Scout Award but would like to be a volunteer with the Scouts in the future.
“Obviously this isn’t going to be the end,” Hay said because he and other gay leaders aren’t welcome in the Scouts. “I’d like to be invoked in Scouts again.”
Across the street at the Gaylord Texan, where the BSA’s National Council is meeting, a dozen opponents of the resolution held signs and waved as cars passed. Another dozen were down the street at the intersection of Texas 26 and Bass Pro Circle.
Mike Duncan, a Scoutmaster from Troop 35 in Johnson City, Tenn., was among the protesters. He said the 1,400 delegates meet annually to ensure the BSA keeps its “traditional values.”
Kaye Anderson, also from Johnson City and whose grandfather was a Scout, said she was proud for what the Scouts stand for and the gays should have their own organization.
“Stay by God’s words,” she said. “I support gays’ and homosexuals’ right to have their own Scouts.”
The BSA is expected to announce the results of the vote at 5 p.m. Thursday.
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