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As Boy Scouts' Secret Committee Blasted, Ousted Gay Den Mom Delivers 300,000 Petitions to Boy Scouts' Headquaters

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Mike Jones
Deputy Campaign Director, Change.org
(202) 684 2552
press@change.org

Rich Ferraro
Director of Communications, GLAAD
(646) 871-8011
ferraro@glaad.org

July 18, 2012

PHOTOS:
Link to photos from today’s petition delivery: https://www.box.com/s/e5852d0e6b3f4d2debaf

  • One day after the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) announced that a secret committee ruled to keep in place their policy banning gay scouts and gay scout leaders, ousted gay den leader Jennifer Tyrrell delivers 300,000 petitions to their national headquarters;
  • Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, co-founder of Scouts for Equality, calls for BSA to fully disclose members of the secret committee and to release the committee’s report to the public;
  • Wahls announces that he will also attend the  annual National Order of the Arrow conference -- attended by thousands of the most elite scouts in the country -- in Michigan on July 30, to generate support for overturning the Scouts’ anti-gay ban

DALLAS, TX, July 18, 2012 - One day after the Boy Scouts of America announced that a secret committee had ruled in favor of keeping the organization’s ban on gay scouts and gay scout leaders, Jennifer Tyrrell, a mom from Ohio who was ousted as the den leader of her seven-year-old son’s Cub Scout pack because she’s gay, delivered more than 300,000 petition signatures to Scouts’ headquarters calling for her to be reinstated, and for the Boy Scouts of America to end their anti-gay policy.

Tyrrell’s Change.org petition has been signed by thousands of Eagle Scouts, scouting families, and former scouts, calling on the Boy Scouts of America to end their decades-long policy banning gay scouts and leaders. At the petition delivery on Wednesday, where Tyrrell met with Boy Scouts of America national spokesperson Deron Smith, Tyrrell said that no secret committee will be able to silence the overwhelming number of people who want to see the Boy Scouts join organizations including the Girl Scouts of the USA, the 4-H Club, Boys and Girls Club and the United States Armed Forces in ending the ban.

“This movement doesn’t stop because 11 anonymous men behind closed doors made a decision to keep discrimination in place,” Tyrrell said. “This petition may have started out for me and my son, but it’s grown into something much bigger. Something much more important. Today, when you read through the comments on my petition, you can read the stories of literally thousands of scouts, scout leaders and former scouts who are hoping the Boy Scouts of America will take this moment and end this policy of discrimination against gay Americans.”

Among those supporting Tyrrell’s petition is Zach Wahls, the Eagle Scout and son of two gay moms who became a viral video sensation for his defense of marriage for gay couples before the Iowa Senate. Wahls recently co-founded the organization Scouts for Equality, which is mobilizing current scouts and scout families to oppose the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policies. Wahls said that the Boy Scouts’ secret committee not only sounded suspicious, but was an affront to many of the values at the core of the scouting mission.

“One of the core values of scouting is trustworthiness. The three million members of the Boy Scouts deserve to see formal documentation describing who the members of this subcommittee are, how they reached their conclusion, what exactly that conclusion is, when it was reached and to whom these people are responsible,” Wahls said. “Until that happens, color me highly skeptical about anything that this committee has or has not decided.”

Wahls also announced today that he is launching a new Change.org petition asking the board of the Boy Scouts of America to vote on the resolution originally scheduled to be considered in May 2013. In addition, Wahls will attend the National Order of the Arrow Conference, a conference attended by thousands of the most elite scouts in the country, on July 30 in Michigan, where he will organize Eagle Scouts and other Boy Scouts to challenge the Scouts’ discriminatory ban.

“We’ve come a long way in the last three months, with scores of scouts and even Boy Scout of America board members coming out in favor of ending the ban on gay scouts and scout leaders,” said Wahls. “We’re going to continue building this movement from within, so that families like Jennifer Tyrrell’s can find a home in scouting that is free of fear and and secured in respect.”

Tyrrell’s campaign recently convinced Boy Scout board member and Ernst & Young Chairman and CEO James Turley to publicly oppose the organization’s ban on gay scouts and leaders. Turley announced last month that he intends to “work from within the Boy Scouts of America Board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress” on ending the ban on gay scouts and gay scout leaders. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, slated to become the President of the Boy Scouts of America Board of Directors in 2014, has also announced through his spokesperson that he’s “committed to changing the policy.”

As Tyrrell delivered more than 300,000 signatures to the Boy Scouts’ headquarters, news broke this week that a 19-year-old Eagle Scout from Missouri, Eric Jones, was ejected from the BSA and fired from his job at a Boy Scouts camp counselor, after he told his camp director that he is gay.

“There are so many stories like Eric’s or like mine -- people with families, people who have given their lives to scouting, people who want to see the Boy Scouts free from discrimination,” Tyrrell said. “No secret committee can take these stories away. We are going to stand strong, and we won’t rest until the Boy Scouts of America recognizes that their current policy only punishes families, punishes troops, and wrongfully teaches our children that discrimination and bigotry are acceptable.”

"The real people impacted by this ban are gay young adults who are forced to hide who they are as well as the children of gay parents who are denied an opportunity to participate their children's lives,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “By standing behind this ban, the Boy Scouts of America are contributing to a climate that promotes the bullying of gay young people and putting parents in a place where they are forced to explain to their children why some scouts and hard-working scout leaders are not welcomed in the organization. Discrimination is not a value that should be associated with scouting."  

Tyrrell’s campaign has earned the support of numerous celebrities including Julianne Moore, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Hutcherson, Ricky Martin, Dianna Agron and others. Tyrrell has been featured at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles and San Francisco for her work to end the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay scouts and scout leaders. She most recently marched in the 43rd Annual LGBT Pride Parade in NYC with GLAAD as well as actor and former scout leader George Takei.

In a 1994 video debate, Republican candidate Mitt Romney also spoke out in favor of allowing gay Americans to participate in the Boy Scouts of America when he stated: “I believe that the Boy Scouts of America does a wonderful service for this country. I support the right of the Boy Scouts of America to decide what it wants to do on that issue. I feel that all people should be able to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Journalists interested in setting up an interview with Tyrrell, Wahls, or Jones should use the contact details at the top of the page.

Live signature totals from Jennifer Tyrrell’s Change.org petitions:
http://www.change.org/scouts and http://www.change.org/att

Live signatures totals from Zach Wahls’ new Change.org petition:
http://www.change.org/scoutsvote

NBC video/interview with Jen Tyrrell and family arriving in Dallas on Tuesday night:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmcIfEJn21E&feature=youtu.be

CNN interview with Jennifer Tyrrell and son Cruz Burns:
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/us/2012/04/25/nr-scout-den-mom-dismissed-gay.cnn

Jennifer Tyrrell speaking at the GLAAD Media Awards in San Francisco:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pp0dwOhLH4M

Journalists interested in contacting Boy Scouts of America leadership should try:
Deron Smith
Public Relations, Boy Scouts of America
Deron.Smith@scouting.org
972-580-7848

For more information on Change.org, please visit:
http://www.change.org/about
Change.org is the world’s fastest-growing platform for social change — growing by two million new members a month, and empowering millions of people to start, join, and win campaigns for social change in their community, city and country.