Boy Scouts of America receive 1.4 million signatures pushing for end to anti-gay policy

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A rally delivered a petition with 1.4 million signatures pushing for the Boy Scouts of America to drop its ban on gay members, volunteers and staff, on Monday.

The Boy Scouts of America announced last week that it could soon lift its national ban on allowing gay members, volunteers and staff. Its National Executive Board has been in discussions since Monday, and a decision is expected this week.

The national ban could be lifted, which would enable regional scout troops to make independent decisions on whether to be inclusive of gay members.

Speaking at a press conference in front of the national headquarters of the Boy Scouts on Monday, Jennifer Tyrrell, a gay mother, said such a ban had a negative effect on children rejected by a group such as the scouts.

“Children’s psyche are involved here. When you tell a child they’re not good enough, when you tell a child their parent’s not good enough, it takes a toll on that child. And so, it’s not OK anymore,” she said.

The rally converged in North Texas from various states, and at the press conference they shared stories, as well as delivering the petition, with the hope of pushing for the change to be made.

A gay former Scout Master, Greg Bourke, said he was asked to resign for being openly gay.

He said: “The council asked me to resign immediately. After many years of dedicated volunteer service to my troop, the Lincoln Heritage Council, and the Boy Scouts of America, I was cast aside thoughtlessly and it crushed me.”

Three weeks ago, gay teenager Ryan Andresen received his final decision to say that he had been denied the highest Boy Scouts honour, the Eagle Scout badge.

He had previously thought that the the national Boy Scouts of America organisation would approve his application because he had completed all of the requirements, and received a recommendation for approval from a review board at his local council, and had a 460,000 strong petition in his favour.

After appearing as a guest on the Ellen Degeneres Show, the 18-year-old Boy Scout was awarded a $20,000 (£12,476) scholarship towards his college fees. Mr Andresen was also recognised by Assembly Speaker, John Perez, who is openly gay himself, at the California state Assembly.

Ryan’s father, Eric Andresen, spoke of the difficulties faced since Ryan came out as gay, because of the ban. He said: “It hurts so much to watch Ryan go through what he’s had to suffer just for being who he is.”

Will Oliver, a gay Eagle Scout, said he had to decide between being true to himself, and being a scout. He said: “I asked the leaders of this organisation to imagine the alienation of waking up each morning, a child, knowing that today against every fiber of your being, you must lie to yourself and to your friends in scouting.”

The group advocating for inclusion waited outside the headquarters for over an hour before one person was allowed to deliver the boxes containing the petition, with an escort.

Ms Tyrrell said: “While she accepted my petition, our petition, she wouldn’t look me in the eye. I asked, ‘Would you like to meet with me?’ and she said, ‘No. I won’t meet with you.'”

Many have weighed in on the debate over gay scouting ahead of the decision which is expected by the National Executive Board later this week, despite some calls to delay the vote.

President Barack Obama said on Sunday that gay people should be allowed in the Boy Scouts of America, and that “nobody should be barred” from the experience of being a scout.

Texas Governor Rick Perry said last week that he though the Boy Scouts of America shouldn’t remove the ban.

Last week one US radio host said the scouts should “shut down” rather than allow gays in, and that these are signs of the “end times”, and another said that allowing gay scout masters would allow “gay activists” to “spread deviant sexuality”.

Last week, a synagogue in California became the latest in a list of religious groups to reject the Boy Scouts of America’s policy, described as “damaging”.

A father of two from Brooklyn, New York, recently started his own Boy Scouts troop, inclusive of gay members, and girls, to allow his son to be a member without having to accept the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay policy.

The Boy Scouts have lost funding from several large corporate donors over the policy, including UPS, back in November, who had given over $150,000 (£95,000), Intel, another of the scouts’ largest donors, ceased funding back in September, and the Merck Foundation in December.