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Ousted Gay Scout Leader to Deliver Petition Wednesday

Boy Scouts reaffirm ban on gays after confidential two-year review

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jennifer Tyrell, a former den leader, ousted over her sexuality, will deliver a petition to the Boy Scouts of America Wednesday supporting her reinstatement. (Published Tuesday, Jul 17, 2012)

    An Ohio mom who says she was ousted as a den leader by the Boy Scouts of America because she is gay will deliver to the group's headquarters in Irving on Wednesday a 300,000-strong petition supporting her reinstatement.

    Jennifer Tyrrell, who was the den leader of her 7-year-old son's pack until April 10, is calling on the BSA to end its policy prohibiting gay scouts and gay scout leaders.

    "I've gotten emails and thousands and thousands and thousands of scout leaders, former scout leaders, Eagle Scouts and former Eagle Scouts across the board, across the country and even the world have said this is insane. It needs to change," said Tyrrell, who arrived in Dallas on Tuesday.

    But the BSA on Tuesday emphatically reaffirmed its policy of excluding gays after a confidential two-year review of the policy. The Scouts cited support from parents as a key reason for keeping the policy and expressed hope that the prolonged debate over it might now subside.

    A Scouts representative agreed to meet with Tyrrell Wednesday, but after that meeting the BSA still refused to change the policy, saying: "The Boy Scouts of America treats everyone with courtesy and respect. Today, representatives from the BSA accepted an online petition from Jennifer Tyrell and her family.  This is the second time the petition has been delivered to the BSA.  BSA values the freedom of everyone to express their opinion and believes to disagree does not mean to disrespect." -- Deron Smith, director of public relations.

    Tyrrell said she is not letting it deter her.

    "I think we've made a lot of progress so far," she said. "We're going to keep doing it, so regardless if it changes today, tomorrow, a year from now, we're going to keep on keeping on."

    Tyrrell was told she could no longer serve as den leader because of her sexual orientation, according to a report from Change.org, where Tyrrell filed her petition.

    "I cried for days. I was devastated," she said. "If you're a parent and you can imagine getting a phone call and someone saying to you, 'You are no longer allowed to participate in your child's life.' It was the worst thing you could ever hear."

    On her petition page, Tyrrell noted that she was removed from her post after she reported inconsistencies in the pack's finances after she was elected treasurer.

    As of early Tuesday afternoon, more than 313,000 people -- including current scouts, scout leaders and former scouts -- had signed Tyrrell's petition, which urges her reinstatement and the end to the exclusionary policy.

    "All I'm asking for is the opportunity to resume my post as den leader of my son's Cub Scout Pack, a post that was taken from me as a result of a discriminatory policy that's unpopular with Boy Scouts and leaders across the country," Tyrrell said on Change.org. "I'm looking forward to engaging the Boy Scouts of America directly so I can share not only my story, but the stories of the more than 300,000 people who have signed my Change.org petition."

    But the Scouts' national spokesman, Deron Smith, told The Associated Press that an 11-member special committee formed discreetly in 2010 concluded that the exclusion policy is "absolutely the best policy" for the organization.

    Smith said the committee, comprised of professional scout executives and adult volunteers, was unanimous in its conclusion -- preserving a long-standing policy that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 and has remained controversial ever since. As a result of the committee's decision, Smith said the Scouts' national executive board will take no further action on a pending resolution asking for reconsideration of the membership policy.

    Tyrrell's campaign has drawn support from numerous celebrities and business leaders, including Ernst & Young Chairman and CEO James Turley, a BSA board member. Turley announced last month that he intends to "work from within the Boy Scouts of America Board to actively encourage dialog and sustainable progress" on ending the ban of homosexuals, Change.org reported.

    Additionally, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, a National Executive BSA board member, said he would work with Turley to change the policy, according to a report on KLTV.com.

    Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout and author of "My Two Moms," has co-founded Scouts for Equality, which aims to "lead a respectful, honest dialog with current and former scouts or scout leaders about ending this outdated policy." Wahls recently appeared on MSNBC to discuss the group and Tyrell's petition. That video can be seen here on NBCNews.com.

    Tyrrell plans to deliver her petition Wednesday at 10 a.m. along with supporters, her family and her son Cruz.

    Associated Press writer David Crary and NBC 5's Amanda Guerra contributed to this report.