A Field Guide to the Activists Protesting This Week's Vote on the Gay Boy Scout Ban
The Boy Scouts of America's National Council meets this week at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, and it's scheduled to decide on Thursday whether to lift its long-standing policy banning gay scouts. (The ban on gay leaders is staying in place for now, but the organization's leadership, as well as a lot of big-money sponsors, have expressed support for the change.)
We forgot to include Aggie fans.
Also descending on Grapevine this week is a mass of protesters who will demonstrate on both sides of the issue. To help you keep track of who's who, we've compiled this brief field guide of who's planning to show up.
Jennifer Tyrell: Tyrell was by all accounts a competent den leader for her 7-year-old son's Tiger Cub pack in Bridgeport, Ohio. But word got out that she was a lesbian and she was booted from her post. She's been on the warpath ever since, delivering a boxful of petition signatures to the Boy Scouts' Irving headquarters back in January. She'll be pushing the group to end the ban on gay adults.
Scouts for Equality: Zach Wahls isn't gay, but his two moms are. He was conceived via artificial insemination 22 years ago and grew up to become an Eagle Scout. Then, a year after his testimony in the Iowa House Judiciary Committee made him Internet famous, he founded Scouts for Equality. He's since become one of the most prominent figures in the push for inclusion.
Dave McGrath & Son: McGrath, a former scout with a gay twin brother, decided to ride his bike from Idaho to Texas in support of the proposed change. USA Today even did a video:
On My Honor: John Stemberger is the anti-Zach Wahls. He, too, is an Eagle Scout and he, too, was inspired to activism by the scout's policy on gays. But the Florida lawyer and his organization, On My Honor, argue for keeping the ban. The group has compiled a top 10 list of the reasons the Boy Scouts should keep the gay ban, suggesting that doing otherwise "will inevitably create an increase of boy-on-boy sexual contact" and "utterly devastate the program financially, socially and legally." Sterberger has separately predicted "a wave of boy-on-boy sexual abuse" as straight kids are "preyed on" by their gay peers.
Texas Values: This is the group that helped get several dozen of the state's top elected officials to sign an open letter accusing the Scouts' leadership of "[c]apitulating to the liberal social agenda." Elsewhere, it has said the proposed change will destroy an organization that "has been instrumental in building the character of tens of millions of boys in our country."
It formed the group Save Our Scouts earlier this year to lobby for keeping the gay ban. On a non-scouting note, the organization would also like to re-criminalize sodomy.
Texas Pastors Council: One of the more virulent religious right groups in Texas, TPC executive director Dave Welch has compared Obama to Hitler, called lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker "a sodomite" and questioned whether Muslims can really be loyal Americans. The group teamed with Texas Values earlier this year on Save Our Scouts
Family Research Council: This group has been circulating an online petition, currently a bit more than 30,000 signatures strong, that says a yes vote this week is "fraught with danger and sends the message that homosexuality is morally straight." The group's president, Tony Perkins, has also cited sexual abuse and pedophilia as a reason for keeping gays out of scouting.