Written by John Starkey
By Alice Canham
“I love Scouts. I love Scouting,” said Jennifer Tyrrell of Bridgeport, OH as she addressed members of the media outside the Irving-based headquarters of the Boy Scouts of America.
“But I don’t love this policy.”
Tyrrell learned in April that she was to be removed as den leader of her son’s Scout Troop. The reason? She is gay, a violation of Scout policy, which reads as follows: “While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation…we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals.”
In a campaign facilitated by Change.org, Tyrrell has received nationwide signatures of support for her reinstatement, 300,000 of them, which she vowed to deliver to Boy Scout authorities. Mark Anthony, speaking for Change.org, characterized the boxes full of petitions as an important step for social change.
“Thousands of people, including current and former Scouts and Scout leaders have signed Jennifer’s petition,” he said.
“Jennifer’s petition has also inspired two national Boy Scouts members to call for an end to the anti-gay policy: AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Ernst & Young CEO James Turley.”
“It’s not just about us,” said Tyrrell, “It’s about change in America. It’s about basic civil rights and civil liberties.”
Turning to her partner, Alicia Burns who held the hands of the two young boys they are raising, she continued, “We didn’t teach our kids about discrimination, but just because they don’t understand it doesn’t mean they haven’t had to live it.
“Sadly, this isn’t out of the norm. This is not a unique story. If a young person realizes that he is gay, he cannot participate in Scouts. Why should he not have the right to participate in the same things that every other child does?”
As she spoke, a nearby “street preaching” group from Kingdom Baptist Church led by Pastor Joey Faust shouted counter-messages of Biblical warning.
“Your words are full of sin! Shame on you! The Bible says what you are doing is against nature!”
If Tyrrell hoped that the Boy Scouts would consider an amendment allowing local units to determine their own standards, she was disappointed. An eleven-member committee representing the Boy Scout leadership upheld the existing policy, and after a brief meeting, she was rebuffed.
Asked about how this impacts her seven-year old son, she said, “He’s sad. He’s not getting to be with his friends.
“We’d been involved with Troop 109 for one year. We were having a lot of fun. I had never been camping before, and of course, we went camping.
“My most important goal was getting involved in the community. Teaching them that giving back to the community is important, even at this age.
“We volunteered at soup kitchens, we did food drives, a Veterans’ Day program at our school – anything and everything we could to be involved in our community.
“My son could stay in Scouts, but we pulled him out because we won’t support an organization that doesn’t support equality.
“This isn’t the end for this effort. I don’t want my sons to grow up in a world where they have to constantly fight because we’re gay.
“We should want everyone in Scouting. We need inclusiveness. That’s what Scouting teaches.”