Back in 1910, when the Boy Scouts of America was founded, their stated mission was "to teach patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred values."
Those values have been debated over the years. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that as a private organization, the Boy Scouts had a right to exclude gay people from scouting and leading.
And this past Tuesday, after nearly two years of evaluating their membership policy, the Boy Scouts announced that they would continue to exclude gays from their organization. In an official statement, Bob Mazzuca, chief Scout executive, said: “The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting.”
Jennifer Tyrrell disagrees with the Boy Scouts’ membership policy, and hand-delivered a petition to their headquarters yesterday, with over 300,000 signatures, asking for a change. Up until April of this year, Tyrrell was a scout leader for her son’s den. She was dismissed for being gay. "It was horrifying to me, actually," Tyrrell says. "I loved scouting, and I still think it's a great program. It just has this policy that needs change. It was devastating."
"You can't teach children to be of good moral character, and also teach them that it's OK to hate or discriminate against other people," Tyrrell says. It's actually very dangerous language. It's very detrimental to the children of today. If a boy happens to realize that he's gay at a very young age, and he's been sent this message by this huge cultural institution saying 'you're not good enough to be with us, or somebody's family's not good enough to be with us,' it's very dangerous."
Tyrrell says that, in her meeting at the national Scouting headquarters, nobody produced evidence of parental opposition to gays holding positions within the organization, which she says was their rationale for her dismissal. In fact, on the local level, her sexuality had never been an issue. "On the local level, they knew from day one that I was gay and they encouraged me and said it would never be a problem," Tyrell says. "It never was, until I uncovered some financial issues within the ranks, so that's where my sexuality then came up."
"All my scouting parents rallied behind me and said 'We love Jen, she's a great leader, we don't care that she's gay,'" she says. "'The kids love her, and that's really all that matters.'"