Eagle Scouts march in the Gainesville Pride Parade

On Saturday, September 29, 2012 in Gainesville, Florida, a group of Eagle Scouts and their families marched with supporters in the Gainesville Pride Parade and Festival as Scouts for Equality in support of the Inclusive Scouting Network. They wore Inclusive Scouting Award knots and Inclusive Scouting pins during the parade. The knots were meant to represent inclusion by religion (silver and purple) and sexual orientation (rainbow) in the two strands of rope.

The group included two Eagle Scouts in uniform, one with his wife and one with his girlfriend; a current Girl Scout, her mother, and a friend who support equality as taught by the Girl Scouts; a Cub Scout, his mother (a Den Mother who believes in teaching her children and Scouts a message of inclusiveness), and his family; and some supportive friends. One Eagle Scout and his girlfriend were there to show support for their gay friends who were Eagle Scouts. Justin Bickford, Eagle Scout since 1995 (Troop 121 in Miramar, FL), and his wife were present to support the future of the Boy Scouts of America and the people they believe it currently harms. Bickford reports that the group “received an outpouring of appreciation from the [Gainesville community], from gay Eagle Scouts, current and former Scouting families,” and from general supporters of equal opportunity regardless of sexual orientation or religion in the Boy Scouts of America.

Bickford shares, “Easily the most heartfelt and moving appreciation we received was from an Eagle Scout who is now a woman. It took her a while to approach us, and she seemed very moved by our support. A couple of people understandably associated the uniform with intolerance, but, in talking to them, they were both surprised and appreciative that there was an effort toward tolerance. It was very clear that everyone is aware of BSA's intolerance, but there is a lot of love and appreciation for efforts to rectify the situation.”

Boys Scouts of America has a long history of discriminating against both gay youth and LGBT families. In reponse to the BSA's decision to maintain its ban on gay scouts and LGBT troop leaders, several adult Eagle Scouts have decided to take a unique stand by mailing their American Boy Scouting's Eagle Scout awards back to the organization, accompanied by letters criticizing the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policies.

In April, GLAAD first shared the story of Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, who was ousted as leader of her son's Boy Scouts troop because she's gay. Take action, support Jennifer Tyrrell, help end the ban on gay leadership and troops, and learn more about GLAAD's campaign to end discrimination within the Boy Scouts of America here.

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GLAAD Southern Stories will elevate the experiences of LGBT people in six of the nation's southern states. The initiative amplifies stories of LGBT people thriving in the South, ongoing discrimination, as well as the everyday indignities endured by LGBT people who simply wish to live the lives they love, including stories of family, stories of faith, stories of sports, and stories of patriotism