Eagle Scout Challenges Boy Scouts' Anti-Gay Policy With Petition

Zach Wahls delivered the petition on behalf of Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian mom.

ByABC News
May 30, 2012, 12:20 PM

May 30, 2012 — -- Eagle Scout Zach Wahls challenged the Boy Scouts of America's anti-gay policy today when he delivered three boxes of petitions demanding change, signed by more than 275,000 people.

Wahls, 20, presented the petitions during the Boy Scouts' National Annual Meeting in Kissimmee, Fla., on behalf of Jennifer Tyrrell, an Ohio mom who was removed as the den leader of her 7-year-old son's Cub Scout troop in April because of her sexual orientation. The Boy Scouts are the parent organization of the Cub Scouts.

Wahls is the author of "My Two Moms" and a video of his three-minute speech before Iowa legislators urging them not to pass a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage and civil unions went viral in February 2011.

The Change.org petition called for Tyrrell's reinstatement and a change in policy for the organization.

"It is time for the Boy Scouts of America to reconsider its policy of exclusivity against gay youth and leaders," the petition reads. "Please sign this petition to call for an end of discrimination in an organization that is shaping the future."

The petition has garnered support from celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Julianne Moore, Ricky Martin, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and "Hunger Games" star Josh Hutcherson among others.

After delivering the petitions, Wahls met privately with three Boy Scout representatives.

"It went well. It was an honest conversation, but a productive one," Wahls told ABCNews.com today. "The fact that the meeting happened is a really positive indicator."

Wahls said the Boy Scout leaders were "receptive" of his ideas and he believes the conversation is a positive first step in overcoming cultural prejudices.

"It's a dialogue that continues to be difficult for many people," he said. "But the members of our community are the ones that pay the price, not the organization as a whole."

Following the meeting, the Boy Scouts released a statement that said they have "no plans" to change their policy.

"The Boy Scouts of America teaches its members to treat those with different opinions with courtesy and respect at all times," Deron Smith, BSA director of public relations, said in a statement. "Today, Scouting officials accepted signatures from an online petition and shared the purpose of its membership policy."

"Scouting maintains that is youth development program is not the appropriate environment to introduce or discuss, in any way, same-sex attraction," he wrote. "Parents and caregivers should have the right to decide when and how to discuss the issue with their children."

Wahls is not deterred by the statement.

"President Obama said the exact same thing up until the day he endorsed same-sex marriage. I expect we'll see a similar progression from the Boy Scouts," he said. "Obviously, this is a very long-standing policy and I don't think it we'll see a change today, this week or even this year. But over the coming months, we'll continue to take steps in this evolution."

Tyrrell, 32, was not in Florida for the delivery of the petitions, but will join Wahls at the GLAAD Media Awards in San Francisco on Saturday. She told ABCNews.com she is grateful for all of the support.

"I didn't expect it, of course," she said. "It's been humbling. It's been terrifying. It's been exciting. It's been a whole bag of mixed emotions."

Tyrrell started the petition when she was removed from her year-long position as den leader because of her sexuality.

"I actually felt devastated. I was heartbroken. I cried a lot. I still feel sad about it a lot," she said. "It's 2012 and nobody deserved to be treated like that."

She said that all of this is mostly sad for her 7-year-old son Cruz who is missing out on all of the positive elements of the Boy Scouts.

When asked if Cruz understands what is happening and that one of his moms has become the face of a movement, Tyrrell said, "To the extent of his ability, he knows what's going on. He's kind of like, 'Boo the Boy Scouts.' He doesn't understand discrimination. He's never been taught that. He doesn't see people by the color of their skin or who they love. He just loves everyone and doesn't understand how others couldn't."