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Scouts, Leaders Deliver Petition on No-Gay Policy

by Nomaan Merchant
Tuesday Feb 5, 2013

The Boy Scouts of America's national executive board began three days of closed meetings Monday that are expected to include a discussion of its policy excluding gay members and leaders, and Scouts on both sides of the debate are publically weighing in.

The meetings are getting far more attention since the organization announced last week it would consider allowing individual troops to decide whether to allow gay membership. Police and security guards kept watch at the suburban Dallas hotel where the meetings are being held, and reporters were barred from talking to board members.

Several current and former Scouts, leaders and their supporters rallied outside the organization's nearby national headquarters in Irving, Texas, armed with four boxes of what they said were 1.4 million signatures on a petition opposing the Scouts' current policy. Jennifer Tyrrell, who was removed as a den leader of her son's pack in Ohio because she is lesbian, called the exclusion policy "archaic."

"Countless Boy Scouts and leaders have been removed from scouting just because they are being who they are," Tyrrell said. "I don't want one parent to have to tell their sons they can't be part of Scouts because they're not good enough."

Brad Hankins, an Eagle Scout and campaign director of the group Scouts for Equality, said he and other heterosexual Scouts see no reason for gay members to be excluded. And changing the policy to allow some troops to still exclude gay Scouts wouldn't be enough, he and Tyrrell said.

"We don't want to see Scouting gerrymandered into blue and red districts," Hankins said.

But in Utah, Boy Scout leaders issued a letter asking the board to take more time before making "a decision which cannot be undone." The Great Salt Lake Council didn't specify whether it opposed a policy change, but said it had the support of 32 other scouting groups, which it didn't identify but said 23 were in the West and the rest were scattered around the country.

"Adages about 'measuring twice and cutting once' exist for a reason," the council's letter read. "There is no compelling reason to accelerate this decision ahead of a full analysis."

At the BSA's headquarters in Irving, a security guard took the petitions inside about 90 minutes after the activists arrived, and BSA spokesman Deron Smith later issued a statement saying the group works "to treat everyone with courtesy."

"The BSA has received a great deal of feedback from a variety of viewpoints and we appreciate everyone sharing their perspective on this issue," he said.

National groups on both sides of the debate have sent emails to supporters and announced they were buying newspaper ads to draw attention to the issue. Even President Barack Obama has weighed in, telling CBS Sunday that the Scouts are a "great institution" that should allow everyone to join.

"My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does in every institution and walk of life," said Obama, who as the U.S. president is the honorary president of BSA.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an Eagle Scout who has written a book about Scouting, said Saturday that he opposed a change to what he saw as Scouting's century-old values.

"I think most people see absolutely no reason to change the position and neither do I," Perry said.

Two high-powered board members - Ernst & Young CEO James Turley and AT&T Inc. CEO Randall Stephenson - have said they would work from within the organization to change the membership policy, which stood in contrast to their own companies' non-discrimination policies.

Others on the board declined to comment or did not return messages seeking comment last week.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


  • BlondieSL, 2013-02-05 12:27:32

    This will be changed. I’m thinking that more and more people are getting sick and tired of the monotonous, droning diatribe from the right wing and their red neck followers. To use the excuse that the policy is 100 years old, is not only blatantly foolish, but also clearly demonstrates how some people just don’t progress & are stuck in the past.Don’t be afraid red necks, we don’t bite. . ...nibble a bit, but don’t bite. LOL :)

  • Bob K, 2013-02-05 19:46:58

    NO POINT USING REASONING OR GOOD EXPECTATIONS HERE, as long as the mormons and the pope’s minions have control of the BSA Board. I am guessing that they MAY let local groups in liberal areas have acceptance, so the national group does not look so bad. Mormons are on a huge campaign to repair their battered reputation, but their idea of progress is "be loving to those afflicted with same sex attraction" (as if they were cripples)

  • gdhamf, 2013-02-06 02:35:52

    I bite when provoked, just sayin. As for Gov Rick Perry why listen to a man who fondles bottled maple syrup in public. The man is clearly loonie as a tune and not in the good way!

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