President Obama joins Mitt Romney in opposing Boy Scouts' ban on gay scouts and scout leaders

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

August 8, 2012

New York, NY, August 8, 2012 - Today GLAAD responded after a spokesperson for President Obama announced this afternoon that the President opposes the Boy Scouts of America’s policy on banning LGBT scouts and scout leaders, joining Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. GLAAD launched a campaign in April 2012 with Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell to raise awareness and combat the Boy Scouts' discriminatory ban.

Today in a statement to the Washington Blade, White House spokesperson Shin Inouye said: “The President believes the Boy Scouts is a valuable organization that has helped educate and build character in American boys for more than a century. He also opposes discrimination in all forms, and as such opposes this policy that discriminates on basis of sexual orientation.”

President Obama currently serves as Honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America, as is the tradition for sitting Presidents.

Earlier this year, GLAAD released video footage from 1994 of Presidential candidate Mitt Romney saying: "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."

According to an Associated Press article that ran earlier this week, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul confirmed that “this remains Romney’s position today.” Romney is a former member of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board.

"Our nation’s leaders from across religions and political persuasions have joined hundreds of thousands of Americans in speaking out against the blatant discrimination that the Boy Scouts of America teaches young adults today,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “It’s clear that this outdated policy will be changing in the future. How long will the Boy Scouts continue to bully young gay Americans into hiding who they are and hurt children of gay parents by denying their parents an opportunity to participate in their children's lives?”

"I couldn't agree more with President Obama about how important the BSA is to this country's young men and am proud to have his support," said Eagle Scout and co-founder of Scouts for Equality Zach Wahls. "The fact that the Presidential candidates of both major American parties have come together to oppose the BSA's anti-gay policy in the most polarized political climate since Reconstruction speaks volumes about both the moral validity and critical importance of ending the ban. It's no surprise that the leader of the free world is willing to advocate for a little more freedom within the BSA."

Wahls hopes the organization’s new site, which launched earlier this week at http://scoutsforequality.org, will help scouts and scout leaders continue the conversation that was inspired by Jennifer Tyrrell’s Change.org petition which has been signed by more than 300,000 Americans.

Tyrrell today stated: "For the first time ever, a sitting President of the United States has spoken out against the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policies. Now, the BSA is not only turning its back on hundreds of thousands of Americans, as well as current and past Scouts — they're turning their back on the leader of the free world and their very own 'honorary president."

President Obama and Governor Romney join hundreds of thousands of Americans including politicians, celebrities, and corporate leaders from AT&T and Ernst & Young (who also happen to be board members of the BSA) in speaking out against the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on LGBT scouts and scout leaders. A spokesperson for Washington Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna also said last month that the candidate, who is the state attorney general and an Eagle Scout, disagrees with the Boy Scouts' recent decision to maintain its ban on gay scouts and LGBT leaders

David Crary of the Associated Press also noted that “beyond the political arena, the Boy Scouts' stance was bemoaned in various newspaper editorials, ranging from The New York Times to the Iowa City Press-Citizen to the Salina Journal in Kansas.”

Wahls, son of two gay moms whose 2011 video in support of marriage equality became a viral sensation, founded Scouts for Equality after delivering signatures from former den leader Tyrrell’s petition to a BSA national conference in Orlando in May. Tyrrell began working with GLAAD to raise awareness for the discriminatory ban in April 2012 after being ousted as her son’s den leader for being gay. 

“Jennifer Tyrrell’s petition started the conversation. Through our new website, Scouts for Equality will continue to expand on this important dialogue and connect supporters from across the country,” said Wahls in a statement earlier this week.

GLAAD has compiled stories of Eagle Scouts who have mailed in their medals because of the ban, opting instead to support their LGBT friends and family members. Stories and letters from some of those Eagle Scouts are available here.

Local troops are also voicing disagreement with the ban and opting to allow gay scouts and scout leaders including Minnesota’s Northern Star Council and Troop 729 in New York. In Sacramento, California ten staff members resigned from a Boy Scouts camp last month in a show of support for fellow staffer and Eagle Scout Tim Griffin, who was fired because he’s gay. Griffin had served at the camp for eight years.

Following a BSA secret committee's decision last month to keep the Boy Scouts' ban on gay scouts and scout leaders, Wahls launched a Change.org petition urging the Boy Scouts to allow its board members to vote to end the ban. In an op-ed in The Advocate, Zach wrote:

“Secret committees of 11 people do not and will not speak for more than 3 million scouts. Though the old guard at the BSA may be unwilling to change their position, we suspect that the young people actually involved with the organization all across the country will prove more thoughtful.”

Zach's Change.org petition began the same week that GLAAD and Ohio moms Jennifer Tyrrell and Alicia Burns delivered more than 300,000 petition signatures to the Boy Scouts’ headquarters calling for the BSA to end its ban on LGBT scouts and leaders. Jennifer was ousted as her son's den leader because she is gay in April 2012 and began working with GLAAD. The petition has been supported by celebrities including Ricky Martin, Julianne Moore, Benicio del Toro, Fran Drescher, George Takei, Josh Hutcherson and Perez Hilton.

GLAAD, Zach, Jennifer and many Eagle Scouts are keeping the pressure on the Boy Scouts of America to end their ban on gay scouts and scout leaders. GLAAD is urging the public to stand with the hundreds of thousands of Americans by signing Zach's petition at http://change.org/scoutsvote and Jennifer's petition at http://change.org/scouts.

Organizations including the Girl Scouts of the USA, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the America, Campfire USA as well as the 4H Club already welcome gay youth as well as adult leaders.