The Boy Scouts of America announced on Tuesday (17 July) that it has no plans to lift its ban on gay members after two years of consideration by an 11-person committee.
The announcement comes on the heels of the widely-publicized case of Kansas City-area Eagle Scout Eric Jones, 19, who was immediately fired from his job as a counselor at a scout camp after coming out to the camp director on Sunday (15 July).
‘It breaks my heart,’ Jones (pictured) tells the Kansas City Star. ‘This is an organization that helps boys out. Telling them they can’t be who they are is wrong.’
‘I know the policy and I knew there a chance of me getting kicked out,’ Jones added. He said the policy had ‘really forced me to hide who I was and live this second life.’
Bob Mazzuca, chief Scout executive of Boy Scouts of America, acknowledged in a statement that not everyone will be happy with the decision to uphold the anti-gay policy.
‘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 advisors, and at the appropriate time and in the right setting,’ Mazzuca said. ‘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 National Executive Board of the organization said in its own statement that ‘good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together.’
‘While not all Board members may personally agree with this policy, and may choose a different direction for their own organizations, BSA leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization and supports it for the BSA,’ the board stated.
Rick Jacobs, founder and chair of the Courage Campaign, called the BSA’s decision ‘shameful.’
‘The decision by the Boy Scouts of America to exclude gays is shameful and puts them squarely on the wrong side of history,’ Jacobs said. ‘The Boy Scouts are supposed to be about setting examples for our youth. Discrimination and alienation is not the example most Americans have in mind. This policy makes young people more prone to self-hatred and suicide, not a goal of the Boy Scouts, we hope.’
The Scouts had already been under heavy fire in recent months after ousting Jennifer Tyrrell, an Ohio mom ousted as the den leader of her seven-year-old son’s troop because of her sexual orientation.
On Wednesday (18 July), Tyrrell will present more than 300,000 signatures at the BSA headquarters in Dallas, Texas. The signatures, as well as comments from a Change.org petition she started, call for her to be reinstated.
‘All I’m asking for is the opportunity to meet with a Boy Scouts official and resume my post as den leader of my son’s Cub Scout Pack – a post that was taken from me as a result of a discriminatory policy that’s unpopular with Boy Scouts and leaders across the country,’ said Tyrrell. ‘I hope they’ll listen to my story and the stories of hundreds of thousands who have signed my Change.org petitions.’