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Ohio Boy Scout official resigns in support of ousted lesbian leader

April 30, 2012|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske
  • Jennifer Tyrrell and her 7 year-old son Cruz visited New York earlier this month to call attention to the Boy Scouts' policies regarding gays after Tyrrell was ousted April 10 as his Tiger Cub pack leader for being a lesbian.
Jennifer Tyrrell and her 7 year-old son Cruz visited New York earlier this… (Bebeto Matthews )

Houston —

A board member of the Ohio River Valley Council of the Boy Scouts of America has resigned to protest the ouster of Jennifer Tyrrell, the leader of her son's Tiger Cub pack forced out earlier this month because she is  gay.

Board member David J. Sims, a lawyer and longtime Democrat serving on the Ohio County Commission, said he did not know Tyrrell. He learned of her resignation from an email the board circulated last Thursday, did some research and announced his resignation Friday.

“I felt that it was wrong that she was removed as the Tiger Cub leader solely based on her sexual orientation,” Sims told The Times on Monday.

Sims had served on the board since the start of the year and said he was not fully aware of the policy barring gay leaders -- a policy officials cited when they asked Tyrrell to resign April 10 as leader of her 7-year-old son's pack.

In his Friday letter to local Boy Scout officials, Sims wrote: "I understand that this action was taken as a result of a standing policy of the Boy Scouts of America and that said action is legal. However, Ms. Tyrrell’s removal goes against my fundamental beliefs of how we should treat our fellow human beings and is, in my opinion, wholly discriminatory. I understand that the Boys Scouts of America is free to run its organization as it sees fit, however, I can not formally be a part of it based upon this policy."

He urged the Boy Scouts to reconsider their policy.

Sims, who has two sons in college who participated in scouting, noted that he, his father and grandfather were Eagle Scouts.

"That is what makes this decision so exceedingly difficult and emotional," he wrote. "However, I know that my father would support my decision."

He said Monday he was not sure whether other board members planned to resign.

In response to Sims' resignation, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America issued a statement from their headquarters in Irving, Texas, that noted: "Scouting is composed of millions of youth members and adult volunteers, in councils across the nation, who represent diverse communities with a variety of beliefs about this issue.

"We value the freedom of everyone to express their opinion and believe to disagree does not mean to disrespect.  We’d like to thank this Boy Scout Council board member for his service to youth and wish him well in his future endeavors to serve his community."

Tyrrell, 32, reached at home in Bridgeport, Ohio, on Monday, told The Times that she had read Sims' letter and was "very moved."

“I appreciate him taking such a stand," the mother of four said. “The BSA is releasing statements saying the majority of people in the group don’t want gays and lesbians, and I don’t think that’s true.”

So far, Tyrrell said scouting officials have refused to meet with her. She posted an online petition at Change.org against the policy that surpassed a quarter-million signatures this weekend.

“We’re still hoping the Boy Scouts will do the right thing and just change it,” she said.

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molly.hennessey-fiske@latimes.com

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