Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell would like the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to change its discriminatory policy that prohibits LGBT people from serving as troop den leaders. Last week, Tyrrell, a lesbian mother, was told that she would no longer be able to serve as a den leader of her son’s Cub Scout chapter even though she’s been successfully serving in the position for more than a year.
“I am a devoted partner, mother, friend and community leader in Bridgeport, Ohio,” says the mom in a petition to the BSA. “I’m also a former Tiger Cub den leader with the Boy Scouts of America. I was recently removed from this volunteer position, and my membership was revoked after nearly a year of service – just because I happen to be gay.”
In response, outraged parents and scouts from the troop planned a peaceful protest outside of the local BSA chapter last night to show support for Tyrrell and others who have been ousted because of their sexual orientation all over the country.
“Shortly after registering my son for Cub Scouts, I was asked to assume the role of den leader and was persuaded by a platform of tolerance, acceptance and support,” she says. “Throughout the year, my cubs performed volunteer service at a local soup kitchen, collected canned goods for area churches to distribute in food baskets, participated in bell-ringing for the Salvation Army, and, at the time of my removal, were working on a conservation project for a state park.”
The troop she led also earned multiple Scout badges for service and skills, while learning and exercising the 12 Core Values of Scouting: citizenship, compassion, cooperation, courage, faith, health and fitness, honesty, perseverance, positive attitude, resourcefulness, respect and responsibility.
But it seems the BSA doesn’t want to practice those values themselves.
“The revocation of my membership came shortly after I was elected treasurer of my pack and uncovered some inconsistencies in the pack’s finances,” says Tyrrell. “Within a week of reporting these findings to the council, I received notice that my membership had been revoked, based on my sexual orientation, citing that due to being gay, I did ‘not meet the high standards of membership that the BSA seeks.'”
Sadly, BSA has a long history of discriminating against both gay youth and LGBT families. Most notably, in 2004 the BSA adopted a new Youth Leadership policy which strips Boy Scout leaders of their positions in the organization and often denies them access to the organization all together. And just last year, the BSA removed an out lesbian from her volunteer post with a Virginia chapter because of her sexual orientation.
And here in Philadelphia, a battle waged for several years over BSA’s use of a city-owned building. While the City of Philadelphia upholds a non-discrimination policy, BSA does not. And the courts ruled the youth group is allowed to discriminate because its private, while the city fights to have them leave the property because of it. The financial matter is still pending with the city now liable for BSA’s legal fees.
“The Boy Scouts of America is one of the last cultural institutions to categorically discriminate against LGBT Americans,” says GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “Sending the message to America’s youth that they or their parents are somehow less than everyone else is dangerous, inaccurate and should be changed immediately.”
None of BSA’s various websites currently contain non-discrimination policies. But it’s about time BSA reconsiders its policy of exclusivity against gay youth and leaders. Because the message it’s sending is not one having anything to do with those 12 Core Values.
“Lesbian and gay parents have proven themselves time and time again to be dedicated, caring and trustworthy Scout leaders and volunteers, as evidenced by Jennifer and many others who have served in welcoming local Scout groups,” says Dana Rudolph, an LGBT advocate and editor of gay parenting blog Mombian. “It is shameful that the Boy Scouts have chosen to stigmatize Jennifer’s son by not letting his parents participate in the same way as those of his peers.”