Today 1.4 million signatures were delivered to the Boy Scouts of America, asking them to reconsider their anti-LGBT policy. Jennifer Tyrrell, who started a policy-change petition after the BSA ousted her, and Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, were there for the petition delivery. What will happen next and how can we help?! Keep reading!
Jen and Zach were far from alone in delivering the petitions today. They were joined by many others with a personal story. Greg Bourke was thrown out of BSA after five years because of its anti-LGBT policy, Will Olivier is asking National Geographic to have a disclaimer about the BSA's anti-LGBT beliefs before airing their show "Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?" and Eric Andresen's son was denied his Eagle badge for being LGBT.
After Jen started her own petition in spring of last year, it gained traction and national support. But Wayne Brock, Chief Scout Executive for BSA, said there were “no plans to revisit the Scouts’ policy of not allowing gays.” However, the tides seem to be turning, because recently the Boys Scouts announced it was reconsidering its policy. We spoke to both Jen and Zach to learn more about how people can get involved.
+ Interview With Jen Tyrrell
Photo: Jen with her family in Dallas today, delivering a Change.org petition to BSA headquarters. (GLAAD/Change.org.)
ACT: What can people do to get involved this week?
JEN: They can go to glaad.org/scouts/tellbsa. You can tweet them, you can send them a Facebook message, you can send them an email encouraging them to end this policy. So that’s the first step.
ACT: What has been the response since you started your petition?
JEN: For the most part, overwhelmingly positive. I’m from a small town in Ohio, so I of course didn’t expect any of this national attention. Currently, my petition’s at 338,000 and it can still be signed. I’m going to keep that up until the BSA is completely nondiscriminatory. It’s going to remain up until we get equality. Also, if you go to scoutsforequality.com, that website can connect you to all the various petitions.
ACT: Would you say those are the main ways people can get involved?
JEN: Basically we’re waiting for BSA National to come out with their final decision, hopefully on Wednesday. You can always get involved. Write your senators, your congressmen, try to encourage your political leaders to speak up, say, “Hey, this is what the people want.” We still have a long way to go, before every kid can join scouts, every family can join scouts. You could start your own petition. Those are the main things you can do.
+ Interview With Zach Wahls
Photo: Zach in Orlando today, delivering a Change.org petition to BSA. (GLAAD/Change.org.)
ACT: What can people do this week?
ZACH: The BSA had set up a hotline system and people were calling in to express their support. Currently, however, they’re directing people to go to scouting.org/contactus and express their opinions to their email address listed there.
ACT: Why did you start Scouts for Equality?
ZACH: Personally, I was inspired by the story of Jennifer Tyrrell, the lesbian den mother from Ohio who was forced out of her son’s Cub Scout pack in April of 2012. I delivered Ms. Tyrrell’s petition to the Boy Scouts of America in May of 2012 and there I met some other Eagle Scouts and we had some conversations. It became clear we had an incredible opportunity to begin an organization of scouts, an alumni association almost, of folks who opposed these bans, not in spite of being Eagle Scouts, but because we were Eagle Scouts. So after a couple conversations, we launched the organization in June. It was really the next month, in July, the BSA reaffirmed their ban on gay members, saying, you know, that the ban is “absolutely the best policy for our organization.” So we had a pretty big hurdle right out of the gate. But we kept the work going and kept putting on the pressure. I think the work we’ve done over the last few months has really been validated in a big way.
ACT: How can people get involved with Scouts for Equality?
ZACH: They can find us online at scoutsforequality.com. There’s a “Join Us” link right there on the homepage, and that's the best way to stay in touch. They can like us on Facebook to stay up to date with the latest news and our various campaigns.
ACT: What do you hope will be the accomplishment of all this?
ZACH: We hope the board votes to approve the proposed policy change to let local charter organizations set policy in regards to sexual orientation. But our organization will continue to encourage the BSA to have a national ban on discrimination, a nondiscrimination policy. It remains unclear at this point if it’s a feasible possibility. But speaking as an Eagle Scout, I think discrimination brings a harmful message to kids, whether gay or straight. It doesn’t matter if it’s at a national level or a local level. It really has no place in scouts.