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Lesbian ex-den leader takes petition to Boy Scouts calling for reinstatement

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:10 PM EDT, Wed July 18, 2012
The Boy Scouts of America has affirmed its policy of
The Boy Scouts of America has affirmed its policy of "not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: An ousted Scout leader says the BSA didn't show proof from their evaluation
  • Ousted Scout leader takes 300,000 signatures to national office
  • Petition calls for her reinstatement as a den leader
  • On Tuesday, BSA affirmed it won't admit any gays or lesbians

(CNN) -- The lesbian den leader who was dismissed by her local Boy Scout troop this year delivered a petition calling for her reinstatement to the organization's headquarters Wednesday.

Jennifer Tyrrell, who was the leader of a Bridgeport, Ohio, Tiger Cub den, brought 300,000 signatures collected by Change.org to the Boy Scouts' national office in Irving, Texas.

"Along with those 300,000 signatures were tens of thousands of comments from scouts -- current scouts, former scouts, across the board -- who disagree with the decision to keep this policy in place," she told CNN's Don Lemon.

Tyrrell's 7-year-old son, Cruz, is no longer a scout.

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The organization's director of public relations released a statement after Tyrrell submitted the petition.

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"The Boy Scouts of America works to treat everyone with courtesy and respect," Deron Smith said in the news release. "Today, representatives from the BSA accepted an online petition from Jennifer Tyrell (sic) and her family. This is the second time the petition has been delivered to the BSA. 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."

On Tuesday, the Boy Scouts announced that the group has affirmed its policy of "not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals."

The organization's leaders reached that decision after a nearly two-year evaluation and will take no further action on a resolution that has sought a change in policy, it said in a news release. It had said last month that it would consider a resolution asking that local units be allowed to determine their own standards.

BSA's chief scout executive and national president had created a committee of volunteers and professional leaders to evaluate the policy.

"The committee's work and conclusion is that this policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA's members, thereby allowing Scouting to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth," the statement said.

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But Tyrrell wanted proof of the committee's findings -- and didn't get it.

"During our meeting I asked for proof of this two-year, 11-person committee," she told Lemon. "I just wanted to see some records, saying where's the proof that people want this. And they couldn't produce it or wouldn't produce it."

In a written statement, the executive committee of the BSA National Executive Board said, "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 deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Darlene Nipper, issued a statement calling the decision "deeply disappointing."

"Once again, officials of the Boy Scouts of America have turned their backs on a chance to demonstrate fairness, exercise sound judgment, and serve as a role model for valuing others, free of bias and prejudice," she said. "This is deeply disappointing. Discrimination is never the right policy, period."

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Tyrrell told Lemon that just because the petition was delivered doesn't mean the fight is over. People can still sign it, and her effort to be reinstated will continue until "we win," she said.

"I don't think it was their intention to personally disrespect me. Unfortunately, it's just a policy that we need to update a little bit," she said.

"I love Scouts as everybody probably knows by now. Cruz loves Scouts and we don't have any ill feeling toward the Scouts. We just wanted to be included."

She added that she doesn't want to cause grief and is not going to sue.

The exclusion of openly gay members goes for scoutmasters, too. A 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision found that a New Jersey law requiring the national organization to readmit an openly gay scoutmaster infringed on the organization's First Amendment right of expressive association.

"Forcing a group to accept certain members may impair the ability of the group to express those views, and only those views, that it intends to express," then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote. He added that the decision was not meant to approve or condemn the Scouts' membership policy.

The Boy Scout organization, which celebrated its centennial in 2010, says it is focused on mentoring 2.7 million young men and helping them develop life skills. It has more than 1 million adult volunteers, according to the group's website.

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