Scouts' Dishonor

From straight teen Steven Cozza to gay mom Jennifer Tyrrell, advocates have fought for years to end discrimination by the Boy Scouts, and this summer they finally claimed a victory.

BY Neal Broverman

July 11 2012 3:00 AM ET

In the 11 years since the issue seen below was published, the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy has ended and millions of LGBT Americans have won the right to marry. Yet the Boy Scouts of America’s insidious policy of barring gay scouts and troop leaders endures. In 2001, one year after a stinging 5-4 Supreme Court ruling upheld the ban, 16-year-old straight scout Steven Cozza spoke to The Advocate about his work to end the bigotry. The Petaluma, Calif., youth started his mission at age 12 after finding it increasingly difficult to reconcile his admiration for a gay family friend with the hate spewed by BSA leaders.

“He had been teaching me family values since I was 7,” Cozza told The Advocate in 2001. “And here the Boy Scouts were talking about he’s immoral.” Cozza launched Scouting for All, a group dedicated to repealing the gay prohibition. A PBS documentary, Scout’s Honor, chronicled his crusade, which brought him numerous death threats.

Reaction was warmer when Jennifer Tyrrell (right) spoke out this year against the BSA’s bias. The mother of four had been a Tiger Cubs den leader in Bridgeport, Ohio, but was pushed out because of the gay ban. Incensed, Tyrrell joined forces with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to tell the media her story. “We can’t teach children the 12 core values of scouting while simultaneously promoting hate and discrimination,” she says.

Rallying to Tyrrell’s side was Zach Wahls, an adult Eagle Scout with two moms. Wahls delivered petitions against the ban, bearing 275,000 signatures, to the BSA and met with its leadership in May. The work of all these activists appears to have had an effect: In June the organization announced it’s accepted a resolution asking it to change the policy and let gay scouts and leaders serve openly in local chapters. Will Tyrrell return to the Scouts if this comes to pass?

“Yes, I think I would because I truly did love the Scouts. If the policy changes, then yes.” Click here to help Tyrrell's mission.

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