Eagle Scout Zach Wahls delivered 275,000 signatures to the Boy Scouts of America Wednesday calling on the group to reinstate a former Boy Scout den mother who was ousted from her position –– because she was gay.
Jennifer Tyrrell, a Cub Scout den leader from Bridgeport, Ohio, was removed as the den leader of her 7-year-old son's Cub Scout troop in early April after Boy Scout officials discovered that she was a lesbian. According to The New American, the Scout Oath emphasizes the importance of Boy Scouts being “morally straight,” and homosexual conduct violates that value, BSA officials explained.
In explaining its dismissal of Tyrrell, the BSA said in a statement that it did not think a Scout den “is the right forum for children to become aware of the issue of sexual orientation, or engage in discussions about being gay. Rather, such complex matters should be discussed with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting,” The New American reports.
With that being said, on April 10, Tyrrell started a petition on the website Change.org asking for the Boy Scouts "to reconsider its policy of exclusivity against gay youth and leaders," the petition reads.
More than 275,000 people signed the petition, including celebrities Josh Hutcherson, Benicio Del Toro, Julianne Moore, Fran Drescher, Ricky Martin, Kelly Osbourne and Jesse Tyler Ferguson, the Bradenton Herald says.
Also among those showing their support for 32-year-old Tyrrell, was Zach Wahls. Wahls is the University of Iowa student who gained national recognition last year for his plea to the Iowa legislature on behalf of his own two-mom family. The 20-year-old opposed a resolution that would end civil unions in Iowa.
The YouTube video of Wahls speaking to the legislature attracted more than 18.3 million views to become the most-watched video in 2011, Gopride.com reports.
Wahls decided to take up Tyrrell's cause, gathering the petition signatures in three boxes and delivered them in person to the Boy Scouts' national leadership in Orlando on Wednesday.
"Most of us have either a close friend (or) a family member who's openly gay, so to see this kind of unfortunate discrimination, it really does create a misconception about the Boy Scouts being some kind of homophobic organization, and it's not a homophobic organization. It's a homophobic policy," Wahls said, according to WESH news.
Tyrrell says she is excited the petition is being presented. "I am so grateful for the support I've received from Zach and from the thousands of scouts, scout leaders and former scouts who have signed my petition," Tyrrell said.
"If you look at the petition comments, and read through the thousands of entries left by current scouts and scout leaders, it's clear that the energy within the Boy Scouts of America's membership is there to change this policy. All it takes now is leadership."
Tyrrell added: "We just like them to know this is our progress so far and it's only been a little over a month so if we have to continue we will, so hopefully they respond."
Indeed, the Boy Scouts of America did respond. On Wednesday afternoon,WBDO reported that Scouts officials have no plans to change its policy on gays.
They released the following statement:
“The Boy Scouts of America teaches its members to treat those with different opinions with courtesy and respect at all times. Today, Scouting officials accepted signatures from an online petition and shared the purpose of its membership policy."
"Scouting maintains that its youth development program is not the appropriate environment to introduce or discuss, in any way, same-sex attraction. Parents and caregivers should have the right to decide when and how to discuss this issue with their children."
“Throughout the years, some have expressed their disagreements with this policy. The BSA is a voluntary, private organization that sets policies that allow it to most effectively accomplish its mission. Its policies are not meant as a social commentary outside of the Scouting program.
“There are no plans to change this policy and Scouting will continue reaching and serving youth to help them grow into good, strong citizens.”
Despite the statement from the Boy Scouts, Wahls said he was encouraged that the organization was even willing to meet with him, and he is optimistic that someday, they will change their policy.
But The New American notes that in 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the BSA has the right to bar homosexuals from serving as Scout leaders, finding that opposition to homosexuality was part of the organization’s “expressive message” and to force the BSA to include homosexual leaders would violate the group’s values.
Writing for the 5-4 majority in the case, Chief Justice William Rehnquist explained: “Forcing a group to accept certain members may impair the ability of the group to express those views and only those views, it intends to express.”