Ousted Boy Scouts leader won’t give up gay rights fight

Jason Sickles
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IRVING, Texas—Booted from being a den leader three months ago, a lesbian mother on Wednesday brought her fight to the Boy Scouts of America's backyard.

Flanked by her partner and two young sons, Jennifer Tyrrell of Ohio delivered a massive petition to the youth organization's national headquarters. More than 300,000 signatures she collected call for the group to reinstate her and end its controversial policy prohibiting gay Scouts and troop leaders.

"It's insane and needs to change," said Tyrrell, who at times became tearful. "It's sad."

The Boy Scouts welcomed Tyrrell into their Texas offices but gave her no answers as to why a secret committee recently decided to reaffirm the organization's long-standing rule of excluding gays.

"I don't know how this 11-member committee can decide that 300,000 Americans don't matter, that their opinions don't matter," Tyrrell said after her 15-minute meeting with a Scouts spokesman and another unidentified official.

While it wasn't forthcoming, the 32-year-old said the conversation was civil.

"I did a lot of talking, I did a lot of crying," she said. "I'm not here to bash the Scouts. I'm not here to say anything negative necessarily. I just can't tell you the heartbreak that I felt when I got the phone call telling me that I wasn't good enough ... because I'm gay."

[Related: Scouts, parents mixed on gay-member policy]

Tyrrell launched her petition on Change.org after being notified in April that she could no longer be the den mother for her 7-year-old's Scout pack in Bridgeport, Ohio. Her online campaign includes signatures from numerous celebrities and thousands of Scouts, Scout leaders and former Scouts.

The site received 2,000 new signatures in the last 24 hours, and Tyrrell said her fight won't stop with Wednesday's visit to the headquarters.

"I told them we weren't going anywhere," she said.

Tyrrell had volunteered for nearly a year, leading her troop to earn multiple Scout badges for their service and skills. She and her son Cruz wore their Boy Scouts gear on Wednesday, despite the fact that she has pulled him out of the program.

"We love the Scouts," said Tyrrell, who also wore gay-pride colors painted on her toes. "We love everything the Scouts stand for. We just don't love this policy. So let's stop teaching our kids to discriminate."

In a statement on Tuesday, the 102-year-old leadership organization said, "This policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA's members, thereby allowing Scouting to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth."

"The vast majority of the parents of youth we serve value their right to address issues of same-sex orientation within their family, with spiritual advisers, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting," said Bob Mazzuca, BSA's chief scout executive.

Tyrrell's visit drew three protesters from a local church. They waved "Fear God" signs and shouted about morality as she spoke to reporters.

"I think God has been pretty good to us, and we have a great family," Tyrrell said. "Everyone is entitled to their beliefs."