The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

May 1, 2012

Scout official resigns, supports ousted gay leader

A board member for an Ohio regional Boy Scouts group who resigned to protest the removal of a lesbian den mother said he wants the national organization to review its ban on gays.

The Boy Scouts of America’s policy of not allowing gays within its ranks has been debated for more than a decade since being upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. It is facing renewed questioning in eastern Ohio after Jennifer Tyrrell, the mother of a 7-year-old scout, was thrown out in April.

David Sims resigned from the Ohio River Valley Council’s board Friday after learning of Tyrrell’s story.

“Ms. Tyrrell’s removal goes against my fundamental beliefs of how we should treat our fellow human beings and is, in my opinion, wholly discriminatory,” he said in his resignation letter, released by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Sims achieved Scouting’s highest honor, Eagle Scout, as did his father and grandfather. He said he understands that the ban is legal but thinks it’s time to re-examine the policy.

Tyrrell, of Bridgeport, Ohio, called his resignation a huge statement.

“I’m just wondering how many board members, how many scouts that they have to lose before they change the policy,” she said Tuesday.

Gay rights groups have taken up Tyrrell’s cause, starting an online petition to get the Scouts to change their policy. Tyrrell said that within the past week she has heard from dozens of people, including some current scouts who are gay.

“It’s sad,” she said. “These kids are fine examples of what a young man should be, and they have to hide their true selves.”

The Scouts say that as a private organization they have a right to exclude gays.

“We value the freedom of everyone to express their opinion and believe to disagree does not mean to disrespect,” said Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America at its headquarters in Irving, Texas. “We’d like to thank this Boy Scout Council board member for his service to youth and wish him well.”  

The organization has long said it understands that not everyone agrees with its stance, but it believes scouting is not the right place for youngsters to be exposed to issues of sexual orientation.

Tyrrell said she was told in April that she could no longer volunteer as den leader for about a dozen first-graders because she was gay. She said the decision came after she was asked to take over as treasurer and had raised questions about the finances.

She had known about the Scouts’ ban on gays when she first volunteered in September, but she said a local cub master told her that it didn’t matter.

The Boy Scouts of America said last week that a fellow pack leader later made a complaint and that the organization followed its policy by removing her.

 

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