Scouts board expected to discuss gay issue in Irving meeting

Posted Monday, Feb. 04, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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IRVING -- 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 Irving 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, 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.

Feedback pouring in

At the BSA's headquarters in Irving, a security guard took the petitions inside about 90 minutes after the activists arrived. 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 that 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.

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