The Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed its policy of excluding gay men and boys
yesterday, a move that Columbus gay-rights advocates say is sure to spur even
After a two-year review, Boy Scouts representatives said that not allowing gays to participate as leaders or members is the best policy for the organization and that most families involved in Boy Scouts support the policy.
"The vast majority of parents we serve value their right to address issues of sex and sexual orientation within their family," said Deron Smith, a Boy Scouts national spokesman, in an email. "They do not sign their children up in the BSA to introduce these topics."
The policy has triggered protest campaigns since the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 2000.
It most recently took the spotlight in Ohio in April, when Jennifer Tyrrell was dismissed as a Cub Scout den leader because she is a lesbian. Tyrrell lives in eastern Ohio near Bridgeport with her partner and their four children, including her 7-year-old son, Cruz, who was a Cub Scout.
Within a week of her ousting, Tyrrell's story went viral. She created an online petition on Change.org that now has more than 315,000 signatures.
Karla Rothan, executive director of Stonewall Columbus, which advocates for gay rights and diversity in central Ohio, said this policy affirmation will not be the end of the protests for gay rights within the Boy Scouts.
"When you have something so blatant like this come out and exclude people, I think it just draws attention to the fact that they're behind the times and that they're going to have to keep re-evaluating it."
Similar organizations such as Girl Scouts, 4-H Clubs and Boys and Girls Clubs of America do not have policies that exclude gays.
The Boy Scouts of America website shows that 69.4 percent of Scouting units -- meaning troops and packs -- are chartered to faith-based organizations. The largest of these is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with more than 420,000 boys in Mormon-sponsored units. The second-largest sponsor is the United Methodist Church, and the third is the Roman Catholic Church.
Jen Koma, spokeswoman for the Boy Scouts' Simon Kenton Council, which serves central and southern Ohio and northern Kentucky, said local Scouting branches have little say in such matters.
"It's not really our role to be dictating our national policies," she said.
Koma said she has been with the Boy Scouts for about six years, and in that time there have been few changes from the national level, so it's hard to say how local communities will handle the no-gay-members reaffirmation.
Rothan said more people who are gay are coming out younger, and there are more folks, both gay and straight, advocating for gay rights. She said Columbus' Gay Pride Festival in June drew more vocal advocates than in past years because so many people have recently been speaking out for gays, including President Barack Obama, who endorsed same-sex marriage in May.
"Probably the Boy Scouts will come around as well," Rothan said. "They just have to get some leadership in there that is savvy."
Information from the Associated Press was included in this story.
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