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Lesbian mom on Boy Scouts: We'll keep fighting anti-gay policy

Courtesy of GLAAD

Jennifer Tyrrell, right, addresses the media with her partner, Alicia, after delivering a petition to the Boy Scouts of America in Dallas, Tex., on Wednesday in which she calls for an end to the private group's policy banning gay Scouts and leaders.

A woman who was ousted as the head of her son’s Tiger Cubs pack because she is a lesbian on Wednesday delivered a petition with more than 300,000 signatures to the Boy Scouts urging them to end their longstanding policy banning gay Scouts and leaders, saying the organization’s recent decision to stick with the controversial membership standards will not end her campaign.

Jennifer Tyrrell, a 32-year-old, stay-at-home mother of four, was removed from her post as den master in April because she is a lesbian. She has been fighting since then to get the Boy Scouts to change its longstanding policy, starting an online petition calling for the change.

But on Tuesday, the private organization said it was keeping the ban on open or avowed homosexuals.

"I feel like this isn’t going to deter me because I truly love Scouts and I truly ... want to see this change take place, and not just for myself, but for families and children everywhere who have flooded me with emails thanking me for having the courage to stand up because they actually, you know, couldn’t," she told NBC News just after handing over the petition and meeting with two Boy Scouts representatives at the private group's headquarters in Texas.

MSNBC's Thomas Roberts talks to Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout and author of "My Two Moms," who petitioned the Boy Scouts to drop the policy banning gay Scouts and leaders that the organization recently decided it would keep.

 


The three large boxes that Tyrrell gave to the group also contained comments from current and former Scouts and leaders who support ending the policy. Wearing her den master uniform, she was joined by two of her children and her partner, Alicia Burns.

An Ohio woman who says she was ousted as a den leader by the Boy Scouts of America because she is gay. KXAS reporter Amanda Guerra has the story.

The purpose of the meeting was not to discuss changing the policy, BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in an email to NBC News, but to listen and to receive the petition.

“The Boy Scouts of America works to treats everyone with courtesy and respect," he said. "The discussion was mutually cordial and very respectful. The BSA values the freedom of everyone to express their opinion and believes to disagree does not mean to disrespect.”

Tyrrell said the representatives were polite and professional during the 10-minute meeting, but that "they don't see any change in the future" on the policy. She said they were adamant that the right decision had been made in deciding to maintain the policy after a recent confidential review of it, but also said they were saddened by what happened to her though it was in line with their membership standards.

"It was a very respectful meeting. I think it was productive. I think ... we were both willing to listen," she said, but "we disagree still."

Two of Jennifer Tyrrell's children and her partner, Alicia, wait while Tyrrell speaks to the media after delivering more than 300,000 signatures to the Boy Scouts of America at the group's headquarters in Dallas, Tex., on Wednesday.

She said she told them, "'Well, I guess I’ll see you in the future because we’re going to keep on meeting until we win.”

The Boy Scouts said Tuesday that it began a confidential review of the policy in 2010, convening a diverse committee of 11 senior volunteers and professional leaders to review the membership standards after a resolution was put forward to reconsider them. The committee reached a "unanimous consensus" that it was the "best policy" for the BSA, Smith said. That conclusion was shared at a February board meeting and recently reviewed by the officers of the board.

“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,” Bob Mazzuca, chief scout executive of the Boy Scouts, said in a statement. “While a majority of our membership agrees with our policy, we fully understand that no single policy will accommodate the many diverse views among our membership or society.”

The review was conducted confidentially "to allow the committee to make the best decision for the organization," Smith said.

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Tyrrell said she asked the Boy Scouts if they could provide documentation about the review, but her request was declined.

“I would actually like a little bit of proof backing up what they say,” she said before the meeting. “They think that all the Scout parents feel that this is a bad move, they don’t want to change the policy. They’ve never provided any proof saying that. I have proof. I have over 316,000 signatures on a petition,” plus comments from many “relaying the message this is why we want to see this policy changed.”

“The discrimination with adults is bad enough, but you can’t be a gay Scout, either, so that’s … [a] dangerous message that you’re sending the kids, that they are not good enough, that they’re not accepted,” she added. “It’s just not fair to treat children that way and it’s not fair to tell parents that you can’t be involved in your child’s life. So, we’re not going to stop until every parent can participate in Scouts with their child.”

In June, the Boy Scouts said it was considering another resolution proposed at the group's annual meeting the month before that also called for ending the policy. But the decision announced Tuesday means the Scouts’ board will take no more action on that resolution and had no plans to further review the issue, Smith said.

The Boy Scouts’ policy became a focus of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000, when the justices sided with the organization in a lawsuit involving a former assistant Scoutmaster who was gay, citing the protections of the First Amendment.

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