There are well over 300,000 people who believe Jennifer Tyrrell deserves to be reinstated as a Cub Scout leader for her son’s den, but today, Boy Scouts of America officials are not among them. Tyrrell delivered petition signatures today at BSA’s headquarters and met with officials behind closed doors, where they confirmed she will not be reinstated. The BSA cited the report of an 11-member anonymous “secret committee” that was surreptitiously released yesterday (with the foreknowledge of Tyrrell’s impending visit). It found that discrimination against gay scouts and gay and lesbian scout leaders is “absolutely the best policy for the Boy Scouts,” but Tyrrell thinks otherwise:
TYRRELL: This movement doesn’t stop because 11 anonymous men behind closed doors made a decision to keep discrimination in place. This petition may have started out for me and my son, but it’s grown into something much bigger. Something much more important. Today, when you read through the comments on my petition, you can read the stories of literally thousands of scouts, scout leaders and former scouts who are hoping the Boy Scouts of America will take this moment and end this policy of discrimination against gay Americans.
Tyrrell’s efforts have been supported by Eagle Scout and son-of-two-moms Zach Wahls, who has started a new petition calling on the BSA to “stop the secrecy” and allow the board to vote to end the anti-gay policy. Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality, has been making numerous media appearances since BSA’s announcement yesterday, calling the “secret committee” a bluff that “hasn’t changed anything“:
Indeed, questions abound about this “secret committee,” its membership, its authority, its process, and its rationale, but Boy Scout officials are mum. BSA officials refused to share the study or the names of any of the committee members with ThinkProgress. And as bloggers Bil Browning and David Badash have further pointed out, the organization has released no information to defend its decision. BSA claims that a majority of families involved in scouting support the anti-gay policy, but where is the survey that proves it? What criteria did it supposedly study in determining what would be “absolutely best” for scouts and their families? What social science research or experts, if any, did it consult? And why didn’t this two-year-old committee exist a month ago when officials agreed to reconsider the policy over the next year — an offer no longer on the table?
It might be unfair to hypothesize which stigmatizing falsehoods the BSA “committee” utilized to legitimize ongoing anti-gay discrimination, but if they had done the least bit of research about what’s best for young people, here is what they would have learned:
- LGBT teens who are bullied and ostracized attempt suicide and contract sexually transmitted infections at higher rates.
- LGBT young people who are rejected by their family are more likely to attempt suicide and use illegal drugs.
- Conservative anti-gay attitudes in a community increase the suicide risk for all young people, including straight teens.
- Anti-gay stigma can influence suicidal thoughts over an entire lifetime.
- Supporting people when they come out improves their mental health.
- Inclusive organizations like gay-straight alliances mitigate depression and improve college success rates.
- Opportunities to learn about LGBT people help make young people feel safer and their peers more accepting (Remember, “character counts.”)
The only insight that has come to light about the decision is that the BSA contacted hate group spokesman Bryan Fischer, assuming he can be taken at his word. In addition to this claim yesterday, Fischer reiterated his harmful lie that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, and also suggested that gay people shouldn’t be allowed custody of children because they’re likely pedophiles like former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. If this is the kind of wisdom informing how the BSA makes its decisions, the organization’s conspicuous desire to hide this committee and its members makes sense. No secretive committee can undo the harm to families like Tyrrell’s that BSA is perpetuating through its ongoing anti-gay stigma.
Actor George Takei, himself a former boy scout, wrote today that this secret committee’s actions actually took place back in 2010, but BSA made the announcement to counter Tyrrell’s delivery of the signatures:
My sources, including ones close to the leadership at the BSA, inform me that this “vote” actually took place in 2010 and that the “announcement” is merely recycled news. … Many well-meaning people counter that the BSA is a private organization, and as such should be able to keep whomever they want out. This is of course the same justification used to prevent minorities from eating in restaurants during the Jim Crow years.
A spokesman for BSA called the rumor “Absolutely incorrect.” He told ThinkProgress, “The process began in 2010 and finalized recently. The process took two years because it is an important topic. This is an internal process that wasn’t influenced by a petition for or against the policy, so it was relevant.”