Lesbian Den Mother Jennifer Tyrell Needn’t Have Been Dismissed By Boy Scouts

6a00d8341c730253ef0168ea4d0698970c-800wiOn Wednesday, Andy told the story of Cub Scout "den mother" Jennifer Tyrell, of Ohio, who was dismissed from den motherhood because she's a lesbian. Andy also linked to a petition authored by Tyrell, in which she asks Boy Scouts of America to reconsider their stance on homosexuality.

But Zach Wahls — the Eagle Scout who famously and movingly spoke last year about his two moms during a hearing on marriage equality in the Iowa legislature — points out that the BSA's stance on homosexuality is elective. Individual troops are free to respond however they see fit. At HuffPo, Wahls writes:

I know this because my moms, too, are lesbian parents, and as an Eagle Scout (the highest rank the BSA has to offer) I am acutely aware of the effects this policy has on families like mine. I joined the Cub Scouts when I was just 6 years old, at the lowest rank on the totem pole: Tiger Cub. The fact that my moms were lesbians was controversial in this conservative, central Wisconsin town of 20,000, but the Cub Scout Pack (the equivalent of a Boy Scout Troop) decided to adopt a wait-and-see approach.

Two years later, my moms had become a regular presence at our Pack meetings, offering their thoughts and advice. Slowly, the other parents learned that my moms were not, in fact, insidious agents advancing some nefarious agenda; they were simply concerned with making sure their son (me!) had an enjoyable and enriching experience in the Scouting program — and this sounded strangely familiar to the other parents.

In 1998 our Pack had grown so much that they needed another adult leader, a Den Leader, to help with the boys in my age group. No other parents stepped up, so Jackie, my short mom, volunteered and became Pack 381's first lesbian Den Mother.

By all accounts, Jennifer Tyrell was an excellent den mother. Even those who dismissed her noted that their decision had no relation to her skills as a leader. They dismissed her exclusively because of her sexuality, they say, affecting an air of regret. But since it seems they needn't have fired Tyrell at all, it might be worth revisiting a few sentences from Tyrell's petition:

The revocation of my membership came shortly after I was elected treasurer of my pack and uncovered some inconsistencies in the pack's finances. Within a week of reporting these findings to the council, I received notice that my membership had been revoked, based on my sexual orientation, citing that due to being gay, I did "not meet the high standards of membership that the BSA seeks".


  1. acorlando says

    I too am a (former) Eagle Scout, and have totally disassociated myself with this group. It isn’t worth the effort to try to “change them from within.” They don’t want to change, and have spent millions in legal fees to keep their homophobic ways. I would rather expose them for what they are. A hate group.

  2. Larry Fiehn says

    The BSA’s national policies apply to all volunteer leaders. While an individual troop may look the other way – or even accept – a gay leader, if it comes to the attention of the local (BSA-owned) Council and the National Office, the leader WILL BE EXPELLED.

  3. Fahd says

    This headline and story are misleading.

    Larry above is correct — and some long term “overlooked” or “accepted” gay leaders have been summarily dismissed after coming to the attention of higher ups. There was a 60 minute segment on it, I think.

    Anyway, to suggest that the policy is somehow “optional” is not good reporting. The policy is not optional, and the Boy Scouts went to the United States Supreme Court and the Supreme Court said they could discriminate because the Boy Scouts is a quasi religious entity — which is boloney.

    The Boy Scouts are subsidized, especially in their rents and real estate, by innumerable municipalities and school districts. This is wrong.

    Being a boy scout and becoming an Eagle Scout helps many boys get into the college that their parents aspire for them to go to. As long as society values membership in the Boy Scouts, things will not change easily. In my opinion, gay marriage will be legal in all fifty states, Jamaica and Uganda before the Boy Scouts decide to do the right thing.

    We need more court cases, so that a future Supreme Court will overturn existing law permitting the Boy Scouts of America to discriminate against gay people.

    There are still some country clubs that don’t accept women right?

    You should reframe this story to something along the lines of “grass roots defies Boy Scout policy”. That would be more accurate.

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