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Boy Scouts board member opposes anti-gay policy

REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Ernst & Young LLP Chairman & Chief Executive Officer James Turley takes part in a panel discussion in Detroit, Michigan, on June 16, 2009.

A Boy Scouts of America board member said a policy that bans gay scouts and leaders is not one he would “personally endorse” and he was working within the organization to “encourage dialogue” on it, the latest comments in a debate over the group’s membership rules.

James Turley, global chairman and CEO of consulting and tax firm Ernst & Young, said late Tuesday that his experience had led him “to believe that an inclusive environment” was “important throughout our society.”

“I support the meaningful work of the Boy Scouts in preparing young people for adventure, leadership, learning and service, however the membership policy is not one I would personally endorse,” he said in a statement first reported by CNBC. “ … I intend to continue to work from within the BSA Board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress.”

His comments came after Jennifer Tyrrell, who was ousted from her post as a Tiger Cubs’ den leader in April because she is a lesbian, launched an online petition calling for the BSA board members like Turley, who head companies committed to gay rights, to speak out on the issue.

But another CEO and chairman named in the petition, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, did not go as far as Turley.

“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 in a statement to CNBC. “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."

An AT&T spokesman did not immediately respond to a query seeking further comment from Stephenson on the issue. The Boy Scouts, volunteer and professional leadership said in a statement that it "respects the opinions" of its board members.

"While we have some supporters with different viewpoints on this issue, Scouting believes that good people can disagree on this topic and still work together for the common good," read the statement attributed to National President Wayne Perry and Chief Scout Executive Robert Mazzuca.

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Last week, the Boy Scouts, a private group, said it was considering a resolution that calls for ending the 102-year-old policy. BSA spokesman Deron Smith said a resolution to allow local groups to set their own standards regarding gay members was turned in by a Scout leader from the Northeast ahead of the organization’s national annual meeting, which took place at the end of May.

“While we’ll carefully consider this resolution, there are no plans to change this policy,” Smith said, noting that resolutions and petitions on the matter were “not unique” and dated back to 2000, when the Supreme Court heard a challenge on their stance. (The justices sided with the Boy Scouts in the lawsuit involving a former assistant scoutmaster who was gay, citing the protections of the First Amendment).

AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Jennifer Tyrrell and her son Cruz Burns, 7, during a visit to New York on April 25, 2012.

Ahead of the annual meeting, Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout son of lesbian mothers, had handed in a petition calling for the reinstatement of Tyrrell and an end to the policy.

He said he has had conversations with people inside the organization and has received an outpouring of support from other Eagle Scouts, with whom he will form a group to work to end the policy. "We're all feeling very positive about where we’re at,” he said last Wednesday.

Tyrrell served as den leader in her Bridgeport, Ohio, community for less than a year before her ouster. The 32-year-old stay-at-home mother of four said she agreed to take the position on the day she signed up her son, Cruz Burns, for the troop. She had concerns about the Boy Scouts' policy against homosexuals, but a cubmaster said that they wouldn’t have a problem locally.

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