One key figure with the Boy Scouts of America is calling on the Scouting organization to allow openly gay Scouts and gay Scout leaders, and a petition is urging another figure -- AT&T chairman and chief executive Randall Stephenson -- to join his call.
James Turley, a board member of the Boy Scouts of America, released a statement Tuesday night saying he will begin to work from within the Scouting organization to bring about an end to its long-standing opposition to gay Scouts and gay Scout leaders. Turley, chairman and chief executive of Ernst & Young, said his day job contributed to his decision. His statement says in part:
“As CEO, I know that having an inclusive culture produces the best results, is the right thing for our people and makes us a better organization. My experience has led me to believe that an inclusive environment is important throughout our society and I am proud to be a leader on this issue,” Turley said.
“I support the meaningful work of the Boy Scouts in preparing young people for adventure, leadership, learning and service, however the membership policy is not one I would personally endorse. As I have done in leading Ernst & Young to being a most inclusive organization, I intend to continue to work from within the BSA Board to actively encourage dialogue and sustainable progress.”
In response, the Boy Scouts of America released a statement to the Los Angeles Times saying it "respects the opinions of our board members and are thankful for their leadership. While we have supporters and board members with different viewpoints on this issue, and who may choose a different direction for their organizations, we believe that good people can personally disagree on this topic and still work together to accomplish the mission of Boy Scouts of America."
Turley's statement comes amid growing pressure for the Boy Scouts to relent, and the Scouting organization itself recently said that it would review internal policies that ban gay Scouts and leaders.
A Bridgeport, Ohio, woman has been asking people who have ties to the Boy Scouts to join her at Change.org, where she started a petition urging that she be reinstated as her son's Tiger Cub den leader. Jennifer Tyrrell said she was recently removed from the volunteer decision because she's a lesbian. Her petition, which was started in mid-April, has more than 293,000 signatures.
She started a second petition Monday aimed at urging another Scouting board member, AT&T's Stephenson, to stand with her. The telecommunications company has an "honored" reputation as an outstanding place for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to work, the petition says.
"If Randall Stephenson has been so successful at leading a company committed to LGBT rights, he can use his power as a board member of the Boy Scouts of America to help change a discriminatory policy that prevents families like mine from being involved in Scouts," the petition says. That second petition has just over 1,000 signatures.
For its part, an AT&T spokesman released a statement from Stephenson that did not go as far as Turley, but agreed with the idea that change needs to come from within.
It said: "Diversity and inclusion are part of AT&T’s culture and operations, and we’re proud to be recognized as a leader in this area. We don’t agree with every policy of every organization we support, nor would we expect them to agree with us on everything. Our belief is that change at any organization must come from within to be successful and sustainable."
If Tyrell's Change.org petitions are any indication, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is pulling in reinforcements from many who say the latest battle is not about gay rights -- it's about raising principled young men.
One commenter called the organization's position "unintelligent, ill-informed, and 'anti-Scouting' thinking."
Another said: "Bigotry does not 'develop character' and is not a 'leadership skill.'"
And a third said: "It is stuff like this that really demeans all I worked for to become an Eagle Scout. There are so many kids and families out there that could, and do, benefit greatly from what Scouting has to offer. Actions like this however leave such a black mark and are an embarrassment to people like me. I am so grateful for everything the Scouts taught me and I am proud about being an Eagle Scout, but this really diminishes everything I accomplished."