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No-Gay Scout Policy Debated As Petitions For Change Delivered

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IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) – Just as leaders with the Boy Scouts of America sit down for meetings in Irving, to discuss removing the national membership restriction on sexual orientation, gay scouts and leaders will deliver signed petitions supporting an end to the ban.

The National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America are considering whether or not to allow local Scout councils to determine for themselves if gay Scouts and gay leaders should be allowed in their groups.

The scouts have said they would discuss potentially lifting the decades old ban. That doesn’t mean they’ll vote on it.

Last summer Jen Tyrrell, a mother from Ohio, and former local Cub Scout den mother, delivered some 300,000 signatures attached to a petition campaign, calling for her reinstatement, and an end to BSA no-gays policy.

On Monday, Tyrrell and three other adults with ties to the Scouts tried to deliver 1.4 million signatures, gathered on Change.org petitions, to Boy Scouts national headquarters. All of the petition signatures urge the end of a national anti-gay policy.

They brought four big boxes containing printed petition comments.  The actual 1.4 million petition signatures were on a flash drive inside  one box.

“We love scouting and we just want to be part of it,” Tyrrell said as she delivered the signatures.

“When I was removed, it was probably…it was horrible. We had done so many things. We’d collected canned goods for homeless people,” she said.

“Even though my scout parents loved me and constantly thanked me for all the hard work I did, I was still removed based on this archaic policy that just needs to be changed,” she said.

After Tyrrell was asked to leave, she had a new mission and joined forces with GLAAD and change.org. “I don’t want one parent to have to tell their son, they can’t be part of scouts because they’re not good enough. Because society says their parents aren’t good enough,” she said.

“While an end to the ban will strengthen scouting and stop the harm it caused to so many young gay people, the campaign for change will continue until the national policy is one where every young gay person is allowed to participate,” Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) President Herndon Graddick said in a press release statement.

Over the weekend Governor Rick Perry, a former Eagle Scout, addressed hundreds of Scouts in the state House of Representatives in Austin where he spoke against softening the no-gays membership policy. “I think most people see absolutely no reason to change the position and neither do I,” he said.

Those who support lifting the ban however say a Scout’s sexual orientation shouldn’t be the measure of their dedication the organization.

President Barack Obama, speaking to Scott Pelley of the CBS Evening News Sunday was quick to say there needs to be change.

“Why so?” asked Pelley.

The president responded, “My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does.”

If the nation wide ban were lifted it would leave it up to individual scout groups to determine if they want to follow suit.

Tyrell says they already have two national board members on their side.

“We’ve successfully convinced two National Board Members to stand on the side of history.

And, they will work within the scouts,” Tyrell said.

There was also Greg Bourke, another gay Scout Leader booted from his son’s troop in Kentucky.

“I was cast aside thoughtlessly and it crushed me,” Bourke said.

Their stories gained national attention.

Ultimately, they want the national Boy Scout policy changed, lifting the ban on gay scouts and gay scout leaders in every troop.

“It’s very harmful to real people and it’s not necessary,” Bourke said.

While they meet this week in Irving, the National Executive Council is expected to discuss ‘potentially’ lifting the ban and allowing each troop to decide how they want to proceed themselves.

“It will still allow kids to be rejected, parents to be rejected. So, until that ends, we’re going to continue,”

James Oliver, a scout who’s straight but whose brother’s gay predicted a fallout if something isn’t done.

“If they refuse to vote on this they’re going to keep losing scouts and I think they’re going to have to do something about it,” he said.

The National Executive Council is expected to take up the issue Wednesday, at least for discussion if not a vote.

Scout officials say that would leave members and parents able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.

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