“Contrary to media reports, the Boy Scouts of America has no plans to change its membership policy,” said a statement posted on the organization’s site last Thursday.
It had been reported the night before that the agency intended to review its policy and may allow local chapters the discretion to accept openly gay members and leaders. In April, a Scouting member submitted a resolution — which BSA said expresses that person’s individual views — calling for such a policy change, and the agency assigned that measure to a committee for consideration May 31.
The committee will present a report on the resolution to the National Executive Board next May.
However, BSA clarified that resolutions calling for the repeal of its antigay policy are not uncommon.
“The introduction of a resolution does not indicate the organization is ‘reviewing’ a policy or signal a change in direction,” BSA stated.
BSA spokesperson Deron Smith told PGN last week that there have been “a few” resolutions calling for the repeal of the policy over the years, as well as resolutions requesting the agency reaffirm the policy.
“Whenever a resolution is submitted, it is processed in the same manner and assigned to the appropriate committee,” Smith said. “We teach our members to treat those with different opinions with courtesy and respect at all times. To disagree does not mean to disrespect.”
When the potential policy change was announced, some speculated that it was because of a recent Change.org petition drive that was created after the removal of Ohio Scouts den mother Jennifer Tyrrell, who was ousted because she is a lesbian.
Zach Wahls, the author of “My Two Moms” who gained fame last year with an impassioned speech before the Iowa legislature about marriage equality, delivered the petition, containing more than 275,000 signatures, to Scouts officials at the end of May.
Wahls is an Eagle Scout whose one mother served as a leader in his troop during his youth.
“As an Eagle Scout I have learned the importance of standing up for what’s right and, when I see something that is wrong, to make an effort to correct that injustice,” he said. “As someone who has lesbian parents, this issue hit home on a number of different levels. And I have met Jennifer and her family, so there was added significance in that respect as well.”
The BSA decided to publicly accept the resolution, which Wahls said was “unprecedented,” as this issue had previously been “swept under the rug.”
A statement from BSA said that the agency accepted the petition “out of courtesy and respect for differing viewpoints.”
BSA has clarified that the resolution was submitted prior to the petition delivery and that the two were unrelated. Wahls, however, noted that the petition helped draw attention to the resolution.
The petition delivery also fueled a number of phone calls to Wahls from fellow Eagle Scouts who support a change in the policy, which led Wahls last week to found Scouts for Equality, an organization that is mobilizing current and former Scouts to speak out against the ban on gay members.
Wahls said that BSA has faced external pressure since the policy was instated, but this marks the first time that Scouts themselves are organizing to call for a change.
“There has never been a group of Scouts who have really stood up and said, ‘We’re Eagle Scouts and we’re proud of that fact, but this is an organization that has done so much good in our lives that we’re having difficulty reconciling that fact with the injustices that we see,’” he said. “We need to make sure we’re having an honest, open dialogue about ending this policy, and I think that having internal support like this can take this through the finish line.”
More internal pressure came this week from James Turley, a member of the BSA National Board and global chairman and CEO of Ernst & Young.
Tyrrell started another petition this week calling on Turley and the CEO of AT&T, who also sits on the board, to endorse the repeal of the policy. Both Ernst & Young and AT&T have 100-percent ratings from Human Rights Campaign.
In a statement Tuesday, Turley said the company is “proud to have such a strong record” in LGBT inclusiveness.
While he said he supports the “meaningful work of the Boy Scouts in preparing young people for adventure, leadership, learning and service,” he disagrees with the ban on gay members.
“The membership policy is not one I would personally endorse,” Turley said. “As I have done in leading Ernst & Young to being a most inclusive organization, I intend to continue to work from within the BSA Board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress.”
AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was more equivocal in a statement released to CNBC Wednesday.
“Diversity and inclusion are part of AT&T’s culture and operations, and we’re proud to be recognized as a leader in this area,” he said. “We don’t agree with every policy of every organization we support, nor would we expect them to agree with us on everything. Our belief is that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable.”
For more information on Wahls’ organization, visit www.scoutsforequality.org.
Jen Colletta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.