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WASHINGTON – Leaders of the Boy Scouts of America today reaffirmed their ban on gay Scouts and leaders after conducting a secret two-year review.
The unanimous vote, by an 11-member special committee, came despite calls from several national board members who said it was time to be inclusive. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Ernst & Young CEO James Turley, who serve on the national board, had urged the Scouts to change the policy.
The issue will not be considered by the national board due to the committee's unanimous vote.
The controversial policy endorsing the discrimination against gay Scouts and leaders was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said he was very disappointed by the decision by the Boy Scouts.
“This is a missed opportunity of colossal proportions," Griffin said.
"With the country moving toward inclusion, the leaders of the Boy Scouts of America have instead sent a message to young people that only some of them are valued. These adults could have taught the next generation of leaders the value of respect, yet they’ve chosen to teach division and intolerance.”
Rick Jacobs, founder and chair of the Courage Campaign, called the decision "shameful."
"The decision by the Boy Scouts of America to exclude gays is shameful and puts them squarely on the wrong side of history. The Boy Scouts are supposed to be about setting examples for our youth. Discrimination and alienation is not the example most Americans have in mind. This policy makes young people more prone to self-hatred and suicide, not a goal of the Boy Scouts, we hope," he said.
Officials at GLAAD have been waging a national campaign on behalf of Jennifer Tyrrell of Ohio, mother of a Cub Scout, and who was tossed out as a Scouting den mother because she is a lesbian. More than 300,000 people have also signed a petition on the matter via Change.org.
“This announcement is old news. We've heard this line before, and I'm sure they'll keep saying this until the day they decide to change the policy. This announcement, moreover this ‘process,’ is just a distraction. We know where this is headed,” said Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, who recently launched Scouts for Equality to overturn the ban.
“Above all, what is most disappointing about today's announcement is the secretive nature surrounding how this conclusion was reached. The very first value of the Scout Law is that a Scout is trustworthy. There is absolutely nothing trustworthy about unelected and unnamed committee members who are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions,” Wahls said.
“A secret committee of 11 people can't ignore the hundreds of thousands of people around the country -- including thousands of Eagle Scouts, scout families, and former scouts -- that want the ban on gay scouts and scout leaders removed.” said Tyrrell, while boarding a flight to Dallas for Wednesday’s petition delivery. “This campaign doesn't stop, and we will continue to show the Boy Scouts that discrimination and intolerance have no place in scouting. On Wednesday, I look forward to sharing with the BSA thousands of comments from families like mine that say the time is now to end this anti-gay policy."
On Wednesday, July 18, Tyrrell and her 7-year-old son Cruz, formerly a Cub Scout, will deliver more than 300,000 signatures and comments -- from the Change.org petition started by Tyrrell -- to the Boy Scouts of America’s national headquarters in Dallas.
Tyrrell hopes Boy Scout leaders will meet with her for the first time and accept the signatures as well as consider reinstating her as den leader so her son can resume scouting. Tyrrell’s previous attempts to meet with BSA have been rejected. As a result, Wahls -- a prominent Eagle Scout, advocate for the LGBT community, and leader of “Scouts for Equality” -- delivered 275,000 of the petitions on behalf of Tyrrell to BSA at an Orlando conference on May 30.
The New York Daily News today also broke the story of Eric Jones, a 19 year-old Eagle Scout with the BSA for nearly 10 years, who lost his job as a BSA camp counselor Sunday after he came out as gay to his camp director.
Tyrrell’s campaign on Change.org inspired Boy Scout board member and Ernst & Young Chairman and CEO James Turley to publicly oppose the organization’s ban on gay scouts and leaders. Following the launch of Tyrrell’s petition, Turley announced on June 13 that he intends to “work from within the Boy Scouts of America Board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress” on ending the ban on gay scouts and gay scout leaders. Turley’s comments came after news broke that BSA officials are reviewing a proposal which could be voted on as early as 2013 that would end the ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders.
“All I’m asking for is the opportunity to meet with a Boy Scouts official and resume my post as den leader of my son’s Cub Scout Pack -- a post that was taken from me as a result of a discriminatory policy that’s unpopular with Boy Scouts and leaders across the country,” said Tyrrell. “I hope they’ll listen to my story and the stories of hundreds of thousands who have signed my Change.org petitions.”
Tyrrell’s campaign has earned the support of numerous celebrities as well, including Julianne Moore, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Hutcherson, Ricky Martin and others, and Tyrrell has been featured at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles and San Francisco for her work to end the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay scouts and scout leaders. She most recently marched in the 43rd Annual LGBT Pride Parade in NYC with GLAAD as well as actor and former scout leader George Takei.
"With organizations including the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Boys & Girls Club and the U.S. military allowing gay Americans to participate, the Boy Scouts of America need to find a way to treat all children and their parents fairly," GLAAD President Herndon Graddick said. "Until this ban is lifted, the Scouts are putting parents in a situation where they have to explain to their children why some scouts and hard-working scout leaders are being turned away simply because of who they are. It's unfair policies like this that contribute to a climate of bullying in our schools and communities. Since when is that a value worth teaching young adults?"