Representatives from National Geographic Channel met with GLAAD and gay Eagle Scout Will Oliver this morning, following the delivery of over 120,000 Change.org petition signatures, calling on the network to denounce the Boy Scouts' ban on gay scouts and scout leaders. Tonight, National Geographic Channel will premiere its new reality series, Are You Tougher than a Boy Scout?, in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
Supporters of Will's Change.org petition have been tweeting using the hashtag #toughscout today.
The network accepted the petition and said it would publish a blog post from Will on its website, explaining why the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy is harmful to youth. The network stated that it would not be issuing a disclaimer or speaking out on the anti-gay ban at this time. GLAAD will be notifying the show's advertisers about the type of program they are supporting following tonight's premiere.
"The National Geographic Channel staff members seemed very sympathetic to my concerns about their partnership and accepted the 120,000 Change.org signatures. The meeting went well, though I am disappointed with their decision not to take action against the ban on gay scouts and I'm hopeful they will soon," said Will Oliver, who launched his petition on Change.org. “It took 120,000 voices speaking out to get this meeting. How many more will it take for National Geographic to speak out against this dangerous policy?”
"Inviting Will to write about the dangers of this policy on the National Geographic Channel website is a step in the right direction, but National Geographic Channel fell short of doing the right thing and calling for the BSA to adopt a national non-discrimination policy," said Rich Ferraro, Vice President of Communications at GLAAD. "So many current and former scouts are speaking out online and following tonight's premiere, the pressure will only continue to grow."
Will is asking National Geographic Channel to issue the following disclaimer before episodes of Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?:
The current membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America goes against the policy of National Geographic Channel and the National Geographic Society. National Geographic Channel is an equal opportunity employer and does not support discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Documents, uncovered by GLAAD, reveal that the new show is actually a commercial for one of the most anti-gay organizations in the country, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
In the October 2012 Progress Report of the BSA's National Council Strategic Plan 2011-2015, the organization cites its relationship with NatGeo as a “strategic partnership,” going on to describe the show as a tool to push the idea that “Scouting is ‘cool’ with youth.” The Progress Report states that the BSA will work on marketing plans with NatGeo for “leveraging the show with Scouting audiences and audiences outside of scouting.”
Oliver, who also traveled to the Boy Scouts of America’s headquarters last month with the support of GLAAD to deliver more than 1.4 million Change.org petition signatures urging the Boy Scouts to end their national ban on gay Scouts and leaders, said that National Geographic Channel was failing its viewers by not issuing a strong condemnation of anti-gay discrimination.
Last week, GLAAD also joined Eagle Scout Derek Nance to call on musicians Carly Rae Jepsen and Train to denounce the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy after it was announced that Jepsen and Train would headline the 2013 National Scout Jamboree. Just hours after GLAAD and Nance launched a Change.org petition calling on the artists to speak out, Train announced that the band would perform only if the Boy Scouts ended its ban on gay scouts and leaders.
When we booked this show for the Boy Scouts of America we were not aware of any policy barring openly gay people from participation within the organization. Train strongly opposes any kind of policy that questions the equality of any American citizen. We have always seen the BSA as a great and noble organization. We look forward to participating in the Jamboree this summer, as long as they make the right decision before then.
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 341,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and leaders.
GLAAD and Scouts for Equality have also called attention to other Americans who are continuing to be harmed by the anti-gay policy, including 18 year-old gay Scout Ryan Andresen, who was denied his Eagle award in October 2012 because he’s gay. Ryan’s mom later launched a Change.org petition calling on the BSA to give Ryan the award he has earned. That petition now boasts over 473,000 signatures.