On Thursday, the Boy Scouts of America made a historic move to lift their ban on gay scouts. 60% of the 1400 voting members decided that all boys should be allowed in Scouts, regardless of sexual orientation. Even though there is more work to be done, we should all recognize those who led the charge for this important change.
In early 1980, Tim Curran received his Eagle badge. Upon receiving this honor, Tim was repeatedly praised for being an exemplary scout. A few months later, however, Tim was brought back in front of the Scout Executive of the local council and removed from the Scouts. The reason Tim and his parents were given for his removal was that a picture of him with his male prom date had appeared in the local paper and he was told that "homosexuality and scouting were not compatible." With the help of the ACLU, Tim began what would turn out to be a nearly two decade long battle all the way to the California Supreme Court. On March 23, 1998, the California Supreme Court ruled against Tim. Tim was one of the earliest advocates for an end to discrimination in the BSA and has continued to be so to this day.
James Dale joined Cub Scouts when he was 8-years-old, later moving on to a Boy Scout troop. He was so revered as a Scout that he was elected to the order of the arrow and asked to speak at various fundraising events. In 1990, the 19 year old assistant scout master received a letter revoking his membership and "firing" him from his position as assistant scout leader because he is gay. In July of 1992, he sued the BSA council. Eight years later, in a split 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court, ruled against James. He has continued to be a leader in the fight for LGBT equality, and you can watch a video of him sharing his thoughts here.
During this time, groups like the Inclusive Scouting Network and Scouting for All were founded, to educate the American people about the discrimination that was being suffered by gay young men - both the ones who were kicked out of scouting, and the ones who left voluntarily because they knew they would not be welcomed. Inclusive Scouting Network founder Mark Noel and Scouting for All founders Steven Kozza, Dave Knapp and Eric Jones began laying the groundwork for these stories to be told, outside the context of legal cases.
In early 2012, Jennifer Tyrrell was forced out of being the leader of her son's Cub Scout pack because she is gay. Jen launched a Change.org petition and became the figure head for all that was wrong with the BSA's discriminatory policies. She was beloved by her scouts and parents alike. She is a loving partner and parent of four kids, Morgan, Tate, Cruz and Jude. She loved being a den mother and just wanted to spend more time helping in the community with her son. But because of the anti-gay policies of the BSA, she cannot. Since she was removed she has worked tirelessly to make sure that no parent ever has to tell their child, "We are not good enough," again. Despite the BSA having taken a good first step yesterday, Jen is still banned from the organization.
Greg Bourke was removed as Assistant Scoutmaster of his son's troop because he is gay. He is still a Scoutmaster for his daughter's Girl Scout troop. Greg was loved by many who worked with him in the Boy Scouts. He started a Change.org petition urging the charity group United Way to stop funding the Boy Scouts if they did not revoke the homophobic policies and advocated for other funders to do the same.
Gay Eagle Scout Will Oliver started a Change.org petition asking the National Geographic channel to put a disclaimer before each episode of their show Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout? Though the channel did not put a disclaimer on the show, they did publish a post written by Will on their blog.
Zach Wahls is a straight Eagle Scout with two moms. For much of his scouting career, one of his moms was his den mother. Zach founded Scouts for Equality, an organization of current and former scouts all fighting towards ending the discriminatory policies of the BSA.
Dave and Joe McGrath are a father-son duo of former scouts as well as military personnel. They biked 1300 miles from their home in Idaho Falls, Idaho to the BSA headquarters in Grapevine, TX to raise awareness about the BSA's homophobic policies. They are working to make a film about their ride.
Carol Clayton has a 14-year-old son in Boy Scouts who has been with the BSA since Tiger Scouts and his on his way to his Eagle badge. She started a petition asking the Capital Area Council to reject the anti-gay policy.
Rev. Michael Schuenemeyer has been leading the movement within the United Church of Christ to revoke the BSA ban.
Max Sullivan is a 15-year-old Mormon Boy Scout who has spoken out against the ban, saying he will leave the Boy Scouts if they do not revoke it. He has the support of his family and they had the support of their church in Charlotte, NC before they moved to Wyoming.
Pascal Tessier will perhaps benefit the most of any of these advocates from the decision the Boy Scouts made on Thursday. As an openly gay 16-year-old Boy Scout, Pascal was recently notified that unless the BSA revoked its ban on gay youth, he would not be eligible for an Eagle badge. His older brother Lucien, an openly gay eagle scout, started a Change.org petition to get the BSA to revoke its ban so that his little brother could have the same proud moment as he did. Fortunately, Pascal will now be able to get his Eagle badge. Unfortunately, neither he nor his brother would be able to participate in the Boy Scouts after the age of 18.
These advocates have worked incredibly hard to end the BSA's discriminatory policies. Though there is more to be done for full equality in scouting, Thursday's vote was a huge step forward and we would like to thank everyone who was involved. The door is now opened for all boys to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation. We know these advocates and more will continue to work until the BSA is completely free of discrimination, but for now they have our admiration, our appreciation and our thanks!