WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Boy Scouts of America Executive Committee proposed a resolution that would establish a nondiscrimination policy ending the longstanding discriminatory ban on gay Scouts, while keeping discriminatory practices in place for gay and lesbian parents, Scout leaders, and in employment. The resolution, which proposes a policy that, “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” is national in scope, as opposed to a previous approach that would have allowed local sponsoring organizations to make their own decisions. The resolution will face a vote by 1,400 leaders of the Boy Scouts of America during the National Council Meeting, May 22-24.
“It is good news that BSA leadership is open to ending the ban on gay Scouts, but this resolution must go further,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. “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. What message does this resolution send to the gay Eagle Scout who, as an adult, wants to continue a lifetime of scouting by becoming a troop leader?”
Unanswered in today’s resolution is the issue of employment discrimination by BSA. Currently, the BSA job application for “professional commission” explicitly says gays need not apply. The application, which comes from the BSA’s national office and appears to be in use across the country, reads: “The Boy Scouts of America will not employ atheists, agnostics, known or avowed homosexuals.” The full application can be viewed here. [pullquote]”Yet again, the Boy Scouts of America has failed its members, corporate sponsors, donors and the millions of Americans who agree that the time to end discrimination in Scouting is now,” said Rich Ferraro, Vice President of Communications at GLAAD.[/pullquote]
Greg Bourke, a gay former assistant Scoutmaster who was removed from his son’s Boy Scout troop because of his sexual orientation, joined Tyrrell in issuing disappointment over the proposed resolution text which bans gay parents from participation. On Wednesday, Bourke delivered more than 64,000 Change.org petition signatures to United Way Worldwides’ annual national Staff Leaders Conference in Indianapolis, where he met with United Way leaders and urged them to denounce the BSA’s anti-gay policy and withhold funds should the Boy Scouts maintain its ban on gay youth and parents.
“I can’t even begin to explain how much it hurt when I read the proposed resolution and realized that the Boy Scouts were still telling me and my family that we’re not welcome,” said Greg Bourke. “After dedicating more than five years to my son’s Boy Scout troop and earning the love and respect of my community, how can the Boy Scouts honestly say that I’m not worthy to lead?”
In anticipation of a resolution, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, launched a petition asking its 1.5 million members and supporters, and in particular those who are a part of the scouting family, to call on their local Boy Scouts of America council to vote in favor of a national policy prohibiting discrimination against gay Scouts, parents, and Scout Leaders. HRC’s petition will generate messages to those local council representatives, so they can hear directly how the ban harms members of their own community.
HRC’s recent survey of LGBT youth reinforces the need to remove obstacles to full participation in extracurricular activities like the Boy Scouts: 64% of LGBT teens (compared to just 47% of non-LGBT teens) report that they never participate in afterschool or other recreational activities. Exclusion from Scouting negatively impacts the overall well-being and sense of community connection among LGBT youth.
Sign HRC’s petition at: www.hrc.org/BSA.
In April 2012, Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell launched a Change.org petition calling on the Boy Scouts of America to end its national ban on gay scouts, parents, and scout leaders after she was ousted as her son’s den leader because she is gay. She sparked a campaign led by GLAAD and Scouts for Equality to advocate for an inclusive BSA, which has resulted in several corporate sponsors withholding funds as well as hundreds of celebrities, elected officials, scouts and religious institutions speaking out against the ban. In February of this year, GLAAD and Scouts for Equality delivered more than 1.4 million Change.org signatures to BSA headquarters with gay scouts and scouting families impacted by the ban.
“One year after sending a letter ousting me as my son’s leader, the Boy Scouts are once again forcing me to look my children in the eyes and tell them that our family isn’t good enough,” said Jennifer Tyrrell. “My heart goes out to the young adults in Scouting who would be able to continue as scouts if this is passed, but then be thrown out when they reach the age to become leaders.”
GLAAD, which initially broke Tyrrell’s story and has been helping gay Scouts and Scout leaders affected by the policy share their stories, echoed Tyrrell’s call for greater inclusion.
“Yet again, the Boy Scouts of America has failed its members, corporate sponsors, donors and the millions of Americans who agree that the time to end discrimination in Scouting is now,” said Rich Ferraro, Vice President of Communications at GLAAD. “By refusing to consider an end to its ban on gay and lesbian parents, the Boy Scouts have missed an opportunity to exercise leadership and usher the organization back to relevancy. We’re living in a culture where, until every young person and parent have the same opportunity to serve, the Boy Scouts will continue to see a decline in both membership and donations.”
Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and founder of the organization Scouts for Equality, called today’s news an important first step, and pledged to continue to work toward a day when all Scouts and Scout leaders are supported within the organization, regardless of their sexual orientation.
“This is a crucial step and Scouts for Equality will work to encourage members of the National Council to vote to approve the resolution,” said Zach Wahls. “But we will continue to fight to push discrimination out of Scouting once and for all. For families like mine, the BSA’s ban on gay leaders will continue to prevent many great and loving parents from sharing the joys of Scouting with their children. But today, this is about the kids, and we are glad that the Boy Scouts of America is taking this historic step forward.”
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
Change.org is the world’s largest petition platform, empowering people everywhere to create the change they want to see. There are more than 20 million users in 196 countries who use our tools to transform their communities – locally, nationally and globally.
GLAAD amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively. By ensuring that the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality. For more information, please visit http://glaad.org or connect with GLAAD at http://glaad.org/connect.
[From News Releases from the HRC and GLAAD]