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Boy Scouts' secret committee maintains anti-gay ban on eve of ousted gay den mother's petition delivery to Dallas headquarters

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

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

July 17, 2012
  • Eagle Scout Zach Wahls and Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, who was ousted as her son’s den leader in April 2012, respond as Boy Scouts of America tell the Associated Press today that a secret committee has decided to continue to maintain the discriminatory ban on gay scouts and gay scout leaders;
  • Eric Jones, a 19-year-old Eagle Scout from Missouri, speaks out after being dismissed from BSA for being gay on Sunday;
  • AT&T spokesperson for CEO Randall Stephenson says he is now committed to working to end the ban on gay scouts and leaders following petition campaign;
  • Announcements come on eve of Tyrrell's Wednesday delivery of 300,000 petition signatures to the Boy Scouts of America’s national headquarters in Dallas

DALLAS, TX – Eagle Scout Zach Wahls and Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, who was ousted as her son’s den leader in April and launched a Change.org petition attracting 300,000 signatures, responded today after Boy Scouts of America officials told the Associated Press that a secret committee had decided it will continue to maintain the ban on gay scouts and gay scout leaders.

“This announcement is old news. We've heard this line before, and I'm sure they'll keep saying this until the day they decide to change the policy. This announcement, moreover this ‘process,’ is just a distraction. We know where this is headed,” said Wahls, who recently launched Scouts for Equality to overturn the ban. “Above all, what is most disappointing about today's announcement is the secretive nature surrounding how this conclusion was reached. The very first value of the Scout Law is that a Scout is trustworthy. There is absolutely nothing trustworthy about unelected and unnamed committee members who are unwilling to take responsibility for their actions.”

The Boy Scouts of America have refused to release the names of the committee members or a report apparently prepared by the committee, which according to the Associated Press, convened in 2010.

“A secret committee of 11 people can't ignore the hundreds of thousands of people around the country -- including thousands of Eagle Scouts, scout families, and former scouts -- that want the ban on gay scouts and scout leaders removed.” said Tyrrell, while boarding a flight to Dallas for Wednesday’s petition delivery. “This campaign doesn't stop, and we will continue to show the Boy Scouts that discrimination and intolerance have no place in scouting. On Wednesday, I look forward to sharing with the BSA thousands of comments from families like mine that say the time is now to end this anti-gay policy."

On Wednesday, July 18, Tyrrell and her 7-year-old son Cruz, formerly a Cub Scout, will deliver more than 300,000 signatures and comments -- from the Change.org petition started by Tyrrell -- to the Boy Scouts of America’s national headquarters in Dallas.

Tyrrell hopes Boy Scout leaders will meet with her for the first time and accept the signatures as well as consider reinstating her as den leader so her son can resume scouting. Tyrrell’s previous attempts to meet with BSA have been rejected. As a result, Wahls -- a prominent Eagle Scout, advocate for the LGBT community, and leader of “Scouts for Equality” -- delivered 275,000 of the petitions on behalf of Tyrrell to BSA at an Orlando conference on May 30.

The New York Daily News today also broke the story of Eric Jones, a 19 year-old Eagle Scout with the BSA for nearly 10 years, who lost his job as a BSA camp counselor Sunday after he came out as gay to his camp director.

While the BSA chief Executive Robert Mazzuca voiced support for the ban on gay scouts and scout leaders today, other BSA officials have disagreed.

In reaction to a petition campaign asking him to speak out against the Boy Scouts of America’s current ban on gay scouts and gay scout leaders, Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T and an executive board member with the Boy Scouts, has announced that he not only supports an end to the ban -- but will also commit to ending it.

In an interview with the Dallas Voice, an AT&T spokesperson for Stephenson said that the executive board member will work alongside Ernst & Young CEO James Turley, another BSA board member, to help change their policy. According to reporter David Taffet, “Stephenson’s spokesman, Marty Richter told Dallas Voice he’s committed to changing the policy... Richter said he believes Turley will lead the effort to make the Boy Scouts inclusive with Stephenson’s full support.”

Stephenson’s spokesperson went on record with this commitment after Jennifer Tyrrell began a second petition on Change.org calling on Stephenson to work to end it. More than 75,000 people have signed it to date.

Tyrrell’s campaign on Change.org inspired Boy Scout board member and Ernst & Young Chairman and CEO James Turley to publicly oppose the organization’s ban on gay scouts and leaders. Following the launch of Tyrrell’s petition, Turley announced on June 13 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. Turley’s comments came after news broke that BSA officials are reviewing a proposal – which could be voted on as early as 2013 – that would end the ban on gay scouts and scout leaders.  

“All I’m asking for is the opportunity to meet with a Boy Scouts official and resume my post as den leader of my son’s Cub Scout Pack -- a post that was taken from me as a result of a discriminatory policy that’s unpopular with Boy Scouts and leaders across the country,” said Tyrrell. “I hope they’ll listen to my story and the stories of hundreds of thousands who have signed my Change.org petitions.”

Tyrrell’s campaign has earned the support of numerous celebrities as well, including Julianne Moore, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Hutcherson, Ricky Martin and others, and 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.

"With organizations including the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Boys & Girls Club and the U.S. military allowing gay Americans to participate, the Boy Scouts of America need to find a way to treat all children and their parents fairly," said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. "Until this ban is lifted, the Scouts are putting parents in a situation where they have to explain to their children why some scouts and hard-working scout leaders are being turned away simply because of who they are. It's unfair policies like this that contribute to a climate of bullying in our schools and communities. Since when is that a value worth teaching young adults?"

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

Live signature totals from Jennifer Tyrrell’s campaigns:
http://www.change.org/scouts (more than 300,000 signatures)
http://www.change.org/att (more than 75,000 signatures)

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

Dallas Voice article announcing AT&T CEO’s commitment to ending the policy:
http://www.dallasvoice.com/calling-scouts-10120317.html

MSNBC.com coverage of Tyrrell’s campaign to end the ban on gay scouts and leaders:
http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/06/12086046-boy-scouts-review-controversial-anti-gay-policy?lite

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.