(MCT) — DALLAS — Gay Scouts and their supporters continued their war of words Monday with the Boy Scouts of America over the organization’s ban on homosexual members and leaders.
Officials of the Boy Scouts did not to respond to a dozen critics who held a news conference on the front lawn of the organization’s national headquarters in Irving, Texas, as security guards guarded the building’s entrance.
Several miles away, the Boy Scouts’ national executive board began three days of meetings at an Irving hotel. But the high-powered businessmen who make up that group also were silent Monday. They gave no indication of whether they plan to scrap the national ban on gay Scouts and replace it with a local-option plan that would allow Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops to set their own membership rules.
The BSA announced on its website last week that the national executive board would reconsider the policy.
On Monday, Greg Bourke, a former Scoutmaster who was kicked out for being gay, said he favored the local-option plan. His former troop in Louisville, Ky., is chartered through a Roman Catholic parish.
“Ending the discrimination is maybe something my parish would not do,” said Bourke, the parent of a 15-year-old Scout. “But it would at least open a door for me to get involved in a more inclusive unit somewhere in Louisville.”
Bourke, dressed in his Scoutmaster uniform, was among the protesters outside BSA headquarters.
Participants also included Jennifer Tyrrell, an Ohio den mother who was kicked out for being a lesbian; Eric Andresen, the father of a California Scout who was denied his Eagle ranking after coming out as gay; Will Oliver, a Massachusetts Scout who earned his Eagle status and later came out as gay; and Brad Hankins, who described himself as “a straight Scout” who supports ending the ban.
“America is moving today to embrace full equality for gays and lesbians,” Hankins saids. “And the Scouts should be blazing the way.”
The Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and Change.org, which provides an online platform for signature petitions, arranged the news conference on behalf of gay Scouts and gay parents who’ve been kicked out.
The protesters bore large boxes containing, they said, 1.4 million signatures on a petition calling on BSA to end discrimination based on sexual orientation. Presentation of the signatures at Scout headquarters was the latest event in their yearlong campaign to end the anti-gay policy.
Mark Anthony Dingbaum, a change.org campaign manager, said a BSA official was supposed to accept the signatures, but that didn’t happen. Instead, he and Tyrrell carried the boxes into the headquarters and left them in the lobby.
The announcement last week that the executive board would reconsider the policy did not explain why the issue had resurfaced now. Just last summer, the BSA announced that a two-year study of the membership policy had led to a decision to keep the gay ban in place.
The 102-year-old BSA claims 2.7 million youth members and more than 1 million adult volunteers.
Only two national executive board members have publicly expressed support for ending the discriminatory membership policy — Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and chief executive, and James Turley, Ernst & Young chairman and chief executive.