News broke today that the Boy Scouts of America is "actively considering" an end to the policy that bans gay scouts and leaders. The decision follows a nearly yearlong campaign by GLAAD and Scouts for Equality, as well as Change.org petitions signed by more than 1.2 million people calling for an end to the BSA's ban on gay scouts and scout leaders.
BSA spokesperson Deron Smith released the following statement announcing the potential policy change:
For more than 100 years, Scouting's focus has been on working together to deliver the nation's foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. Scouting has always been in an ongoing dialogue with the Scouting family to determine what is in the best interest of the organization and the young people we serve.
Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation. This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs. BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.
The policy change under discussion would allow the religious, civic, or educational organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting to determine how to address this issue. The Boy Scouts would not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents. Under this proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization's mission, principles, or religious beliefs.
NBC News reports that "the change could be announced as early as next week, after the BSA's national board holds a regularly scheduled meeting."
"The Boy Scouts of America have heard from scouts, corporations and millions of Americans that discriminating against gay scouts and scout leaders is wrong," said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. "Scouting is a valuable institution and this change will only strengthen its core principles of fairness and respect."
"This would be an incredible step forward in the right direction," said Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality. "We look forward to working with BSA Councils and chartering organizations across the country to end the exclusion of our gay brothers in Scouting, as well as the gay and lesbian leaders who serve the organizations so well."
"More than 1 million people have joined Change.org campaigns urging the Boy Scouts of America to end their national anti-gay policy, and today, those signers are celebrating a huge victory for people-powered change," said Mark Anthony Dingbaum, Senior Campaign Manager at Change.org. "Jennifer Tyrrell, Zach Wahls, and Ryan Andresen have proven that long-standing institutions of discrimination are no match for cutting-edge online tools and powerful storytelling."
"The pulse of equality is strong in America, and today it beats a bit faster with news that the Boy Scouts may finally put an end to its long history of discrimination," said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin. "Our nation and its leaders respect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, and it's time the Boy Scouts echo those values."
GLAAD first started calls for the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on gay scouts and scout leaders in April 2012 after Jennifer Tyrrell, a mom and den leader from Ohio was removed from her 7-year-old's Cub Scout Pack for being gay. Tyrrell's Change.org petition has attracted more than 330,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts' ban on gay Scouts and leaders.
More than 1 million people have joined Change.org petition campaigns since Tyrrell launched her first petition. Since that day, advocacy efforts and successful petition campaigns have recruited two Boy Scout board members -- AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Ernst & Young CEO James Turley -- to denounce the national anti-gay policy. GLAAD, together with Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality Zach Wahls, have also used Change.org petitions to pressure corporate donors such as Intel and UPS to pull funding until the Boy Scouts end their policy banning gay youth and parents. Last fall, a Bay Area mother named Karen Andresen petitioned her local Boy Scout council to honor her son Ryan with an Eagle Award that was denied to him when the Scout came out as gay. An official Eagle Board Board of Review unanimously approved Ryan's application for Eagle, but a Boy Scout executive ultimately rejected his application.
"From my very first phone call to GLAAD, I knew that we had a real opportunity to create change," said Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell. "An end to this ban will restore dignity to countless families across the country, my own included, who simply wanted to take part in all Scouting has to offer. My family loved participating in scouting, and I look forward to the day when we might once again be able to take part."
"I hope that the BSA Board does actually approve this change," said Eric Andresen, father of Ryan Andresen. "It's the right thing to do, and would mean so much to Ryan, his mother and our family, and to thousands of other scouts who have been forced into very difficult, emotionally charged situations because of the existing ban."
The history of this campaign can be found at www.glaad.org/scouts.