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Eagle Scouts to pressure Boy Scouts' ban on gay members, leaders

June 07, 2012|By Laura J. Nelson

You can't be in Boy Scouts if you're openly gay — but a group of Eagle Scouts wants to change that. Current and former scouts have banded together to form Scouts for Equality, challenging the Boy Scouts of America's century-old policy that bans gay scouts and troop leaders from its ranks.

The group’s launch comes less than 24 hours after Boy Scout top brass said they would review a proposed resolution to end the ban, but said it had little chance of passing.

“When it comes to matters of sexual orientation, our policy is to not discuss that in any way, but to refer kids to spiritual advisors, parents and guardians,” Deron Smith, a Boy Scouts spokesman, told The Times. “We know what we do well. We focus on that.”

The co-founder of the group trying to pressure the Boy Scouts is Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout from Iowa who, testifying before state representatives debating same-sex marriage in 2011, spoke movingly about his lesbian mothers. A video of his appearance went viral last year.

“Until now, there hasn’t been a place for scouts to have this outlet,” Wahls said in an interview. “We’re providing a sounding board for the scouting community, where we can assess our support and mobilize people to end the policy.”

The new grass-roots group is gathering stories from current and former Boy Scouts, both gay and straight, on its website. Coupled with the resolution and a petition from the group change.org with almost 300,000 signatures, the effort tightens the screws on a policy that has repeatedly come under fire.

The petition began when Ohio mother Jennifer Tyrrell was fired from her volunteer Cub Scout leader position in April because she is a lesbian. Tyrrell wrote a change.org petition that called for revising the policy. Wahls delivered nearly 300,000 signatures to Boy Scout executives at their annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., last month.

“My sexuality had never been a discussion until the Boy Scouts forced it to be a discussion,” Tyrrell told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s not a part of scouting, regardless of your orientation.”

The change.org petition also spurred an anonymous writer to submit the amendment resolution. A subcommittee will review and analyze the proposal. The organization’s executives will vote next May.

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laura.nelson@latimes.com

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