Boy Scouts kick out lesbian den leader (video)
Jennifer Tyrrell, 32, wants to be reinstated as leader of her son's pack and has been crisscrossing the country winning support for her cause; she appeared in Los Angeles last weekend, then New York City.
"The goal is really just to raise awareness," Tyrrell said in an interview. "We're hoping the Boy Scouts will do the right thing and just change the policy."
Officials at the Boy Scouts of America, which has an oath calling for members to be "morally straight," maintain they have the right as a private group to exclude gays from their ranks. That position was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 but has led many state and local governments to deny support for the group.
Further, the Scouts add, Tyrrell knew the policy when she joined up.
Tyrrell acknowledges this, saying she had been reluctant to allow her son Cruz, 7, to join the pack in Bridgeport, the eastern Ohio town where Tyrrell lives with her partner, a registered nurse, and their four children.
But at the first meeting, Tyrrell -- who is open about her sexual orientation -- said the local Cubmaster put her at ease. "He assured me at the local level it would never be a problem," she told The Los Angeles Times. "From Day One, I was open and honest about it."
In September, Tyrrell was drafted to lead Pack 109's Tiger Cub Scouts. She said that she told parents at their first meeting about her sexual orientation, and that it wasn't an issue.
On April 10, shortly after Tyrrell was laid off from her job at a hardware store, she received a phone call from a scouting official telling her she had to resign because someone had complained about her. Tyrrell said she was skeptical about the complaint -- she suspects she was removed because she had recently raised questions about scouting finances after becoming treasurer of the local troop.
Scouting officials insist that Tyrrell was not asked to resign because she questioned Scout finances.
"That is absolutely not the case," Deron Smith, a spokesman for Boy Scouts of America, based in Irving, Texas, said in a statement to The Times. "While she did raise questions about the local Cub Scout Pack's finances, which were reviewed and addressed by the Cub Scout Pack's leadership, the BSA always welcomes a volunteer pointing out any issue with regard to stewardship of Scouting resources."
"Her removal from the program was solely for being in violation of national policy and unrelated to any other issue. This policy was understood by her and her fellow volunteers, but not followed, upon her registering in the program," Smith said. "Scouting, and the majority of parents it serves, does not believe it is the right forum for children to become aware of the issue of sexual orientation, or engage in discussions about being gay," the statement said.
Many parents have defended Tyrrell, demanding the Boy Scouts reinstate her and staging a protest outside the church where the pack held its meetings.
"They should come off of that rule and let her and other parents come back," said Crystal Sabinsky, 35, whose 7-year-old son was in Tyrrell's pack. "I don't think it should be a problem."
Sabinsky told The Times that her son and other boys in the pack have had trouble grasping that Tyrrell was forced out: "The boys adore her. That's why she's had the following she's had."
Tyrrell took the boys swimming, led them on orienteering hikes and helped them collect food pantry donations and Christmas toys, Sabinsky said.
Groups such as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation have taken up Tyrrell's cause, starting an online petition at Change.org to get the Scouts to change their policy. It's been signed by nearly 186,000 people.
The assistant pack leader has stepped in to lead the pack in Tyrrell's absence, Sabinsky said. But she added: "We're waiting to see if she could possibly come back."
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