Jennifer Tyrrell of Bridgeport, Ohio is a devoted partner, mother, friend and community leader. Until recently, she also volunteered her time to serve as the den leader of a local Cub Scout chapter. (Cub scouts are young boys who participate in the programs of the Boy Scouts of America [BSA].)
Last week, Jennifer was asked to leave her post as den leader. She was asked to leave not because of issues with performance and not because of any issues with scouts or parents. Quite the contrary. Jennifer is popular with scouts and parents alike. So much so that they're coming out to support her en mass on Tuesday, in peaceful protest of the local BSA chapter that removed Jennifer from her volunteer post just because she happens to be gay.
Bob Drury, a scout executive for the Ohio River Valley told WTOV-TV last night: “We do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avow homosexuals.” He continued: “The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to develop a character and leadership skills and [for] the youth of today to become the leaders of tomorrow. And anything that distracts from that mission, distracts from what our program is.” WTOV-TV reported that the decision was “solely based on her sexual orientation.” WTOV-TV reporter Ryan Eldredge said he was struck by “just how much support the former leader had from the members of her troop.”
BSA has a long history of discriminating against both gay youth and LGBT families. Most notably, in 2004 the BSA adopted a new Youth Leadership policy which strips Boy Scout leaders of their positions in the organization and often denies them access to the organization all together. Just last year, the BSA removed an out lesbian from her volunteer post with a local Potomac Falls, VA chapter because of her sexual orientation. None of BSA’s various websites currently contain non-discrimination policies with enumerated protected classes.
Today, GLAAD called on supporters to join a Change.org action Jennifer launched, which calls on BSA to end its pattern of discrimination against LGBT people.
"The Boy Scouts of America is one of the only cultural institutions to categorically discriminate against LGBT Americans," said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. "Sending the message to America’s youth that they or their parents are somehow less than everyone else is dangerous, inaccurate and should be changed immediately."
LGBT advocates also spoke out:
“Lesbian and gay parents have proven themselves time and time again to be dedicated, caring, and trustworthy Scout leaders and volunteers, as evidenced by Jennifer and many others who have served in welcoming local Scout groups,” said Dana Rudolph, founder and publisher of popular LGBT parenting blog Mombian. “It is shameful that the Boy Scouts have chosen to stigmatize Jennifer's son by not letting his parents participate in the same way as those of his peers.”
GLAAD is working with Jennifer to share her story and the discrimination that she faced.