Boy Scouts Lift Ban on Gay Youth
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) today approved a resolution that will lift the nationwide ban on gay youth, but will continue to deny gay parents and adults the opportunity to participate in the organization. The resolution was voted on by roughly 1,400 members of the BSA's National Council and will take effect onJanuary 1, 2014.
The historic move comes after more than 1.8 million Change.org petition signatures were amassed on campaigns launched by Scouts, Scout leaders, and Scouting parents, and supported by GLAAD and Scouts for Equality, urging the Boy Scouts to end its national anti-gay policy.
Pascal Tessier, a 16-year-old Boy Scout from Maryland, perhaps has the most to gain from today's historic vote. As an openly gay young person, Tessier's Boy Scout council recently said that unless the Boy Scouts lift their ban, Pascal would not be able to earn his Eagle award. So Pascal's older brother, Lucien Tessier, launched a petition on Change.org urging the Boy Scouts to end the national anti-gay ban so his younger brother can earn his Eagle award, just like Lucien did.
"Just a few hours ago, I was thinking that today could be my last day as a Boy Scout. Obviously, for gay Scouts like me, this vote is life-changing," said Tessier, whose petition received more than 128,000 signatures. "Like my brother before me, I now have a chance to earn my Eagle award -- something that's taken most of my life to achieve. Finally, Scouts are no longer forced to choose between upholding the Scout Oath and being open and honest about who they really are."
Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell ignited a national movement last year after she was let go as Den Leader of her son's Cub Scout pack because she is gay. Working with GLAAD, she started a Change.org petition demanding that she be reinstated, garnering more than 330,000 signatures. She led a second Change.org campaign asking the CEOs of Ernst & Young and AT&T, both of whom sit on the board of the Boy Scouts of America, to speak out against the organization's ban on gay Scouts and leaders.
"When I was kicked out of the Boy Scouts last April, I was devastated," said Tyrrell. "Having to look my son, Cruz, in the eye and tell him that our family isn't good enough was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Today is truly a watershed moment for me, but even more so for the millions of kids across this country, who will now be allowed to serve in the Scouts without fear of rejection. I'm so proud of how far we've come, but until there's a place for everyone in Scouting, my work will continue."
GLAAD, which initially broke Tyrrell's story and has been helping gay Scouts and Scout leaders affected by the policy share their stories, applauded today's vote, but echoed Tyrrell's call for greater inclusion.
"Today's vote is a significant victory for gay youth across the nation and a clear indication that the Boy Scouts ban on gay adult leaders will also inevitably end," said GLAAD spokesperson Rich Ferraro. "The Boy Scouts of America heard from religious leaders, corporate sponsors and so many Scouting families who want an end to discrimination against gay people, and GLAAD will continue this work with those committed to equality in Scouting until gay parents and adults are able to participate."
Greg Bourke, a gay former assistant Scoutmaster who was removed from his son's Boy Scout troop because of his sexual orientation, celebrated the historic move, but issued disappointment in the Boy Scouts for not lifting the ban on gay parents and adult leaders. Bourke had delivered more than 64,000 Change.org petition signatures to United Way Worldwide's' annual national Staff Leaders Conference in April, where he met with United Way leaders and urged them to denounce the BSA's anti-gay policy and withhold funds should the Boy Scouts maintain its ban on gay youth and parents.
"This is an historic day in the 103-year history of the Boy Scouts of America - the day it finally found its moral compass and started down the long trail to equality in Scouting," said Bourke. "It is definite progress, but even with this approved membership change, gay adults like Jennifer Tyrrell and myself will continue to be banned from serving in the Scouts, even in units with our own children. There is no other word for that except discrimination."
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