Gay Scouts encourage national group to change ban

Posted Thursday, May. 23, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Greg Bourke delivered a message Wednesday that some in the Boy Scouts of America don’t want to hear.

“It is time for [Boy Scouts] to stop fostering a climate where bullying, homophobia and discrimination can fester,” Bourke said.

Today, about 1,400 voting members of the Boy Scouts national executive committee are expected to decide whether to change the group’s long-standing ban on openly gay boys. The proposed resolution would “remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone,” according to the group’s website. It would continue a ban on gay leaders.

The annual meeting of the Irving-based organization began Wednesday at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine.

Bourke was among a dozen current and former Scouts and Scout leaders at a news conference at Great Wolf Lodge that was organized by Scouts for Equality and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Across the street, protesters gathered at the entrance to the Gaylord to encourage council members not to change a thing.

“The Scouts have a history of being morally straight, and we want that to continue,” said Jamiejo Flowers of Fort Worth, who said she is the mother of a Cub Scout and the grandmother of a future Scout.

“We’re also a part of the Tea Party. People came from San Antonio, Houston and Decatur to bake in the sun to let these delegates know how important it is to maintain moral integrity, and that’s not what homosexuality is.”

A 16-year-old Scout from Maryland, Pascal Tessier, said that attitude will prevent him from becoming an Eagle Scout if the ban is not overturned.

“Being gay doesn’t define who I am to me or my family or my friends,” Tessier said at the news conference. “But the Boy Scouts’ membership policy will exclude me based on that one quality, regardless of my having earned all the merit badges required for Eagle and everything else I’ve done in Scouting.”

Tessier’s brother, Lucien, an Eagle Scout, started one of several petition drives on the website Change.org intended to show Boy Scout board members that Americans support an end to the ban.

“I’m proud to say that 125,000 people signed that petition,” Pascal Tessier said.

More than 345,000 names were signed on a petition launched by Jennifer Tyrrell, who was a leader of her son’s Cub Scout pack until the national organization found out that she is married to a woman. At one time, Tyrrell hoped to be reinstated as pack leader, but the question being decided today is whether to allow gays to be Scouts, not Scout leaders.

“The last person who expected me to love Scouting was me,” she said. “But I do love it. I hope BSA will take this first step. No one should be told they’re not good enough just because of what they are. The BSA is better than this.”

Through those petitions, the gay Scouts and their supporters have delivered 1.8 million signatures to Scout leadership “calling for the end of the ban against gay teens and adults,” said Rich Ferraro, a spokesman for GLAAD. “Yesterday, the Alliance Defending Freedom — the only organization I’ve heard of that’s done it — delivered 19,000 signatures calling for them to keep the ban in place.”

That, Ferraro said, means that “America is ready, and not just gay America. It’s our straight friends and families who don’t support anti-gay discrimination.”

Dave McGrath agreed. He and his son, Joe, cycled 1,866 miles from Idaho to Grapevine to promote the campaign to change the Boy Scouts’ policy. He said he did it for his identical twin brother, who is gay, and the two of his six sons who are gay.

“In 1991, [Boy Scouts] injected sexuality into being a Scout, adding ‘unless you are gay’ to each part of the Scout Law,” he said.

All of the speakers said that today’s vote will be historic, and that, in Ferraro’s words, “it could be the first step in creating a Boy Scouts of America that is a Boy Scouts for all Americans.”

Terry Evans, 817-390-7620 Twitter: @fwstevans

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