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May 4. 2012

Den mother kicked out of Boy Scouts for being gay

Bridgeport, Ohio--The Boy Scouts of America are finding themselves in a familiar position, defending against protests over their policies barring gay and atheist members and leaders.

This time, the controversy erupted over the dismissal of a lesbian den mother in this Ohio River town across from Wheeling, W.V. Jennifer Tyrrell was ousted last month as the den mother of the Tiger Scouts in Pack 109, the pre-Cub Scout group for first graders.

She had informed all the parents in her troop of her sexual orientation before accepting the position last year, and none of them had any issue with it. Her 7-year-old son Cruz is in the troop, and parents are required to accompany their children to meetings.

After being asked to become treasurer of the troop, she raised questions about its finances, and was told in early April by a regional Boy Scout Council representative that she would have to resign because of her sexual orientation.

The Boy Scouts of America is a private organization, despite a Congressional charter and financial breaks from many governments. It won a 2000 Supreme Court decision that they have a right to freedom of association, and can bar gay and atheist members and personnel. The national leadership claims that the part of their oath requiring people to be “morally straight” means they have to be heterosexual.

They also say that the Boy Scouts is not the proper forum for sexual education.

But few if any of Tyrrell’s young charges knew of her sexual orientation--until the Boy Scouts made it an issue by dismissing her. Now, parents say they have to explain sexual orientation to their seven-year-old sons because of the Boy Scouts of America.

Parents of Tyrrell’s Tiger Scouts held a protest demanding that she be reinstated, and a Change.org petition quickly garnered over 120,000 signatures.

A board member of the Boy Scouts’ Ohio River Valley Council resigned in protest on April 27.

"Ms. Tyrrell's removal goes against my fundamental beliefs of how we should treat our fellow human beings and is, in my opinion, wholly discriminatory," David Sims wrote in his resignation letter, according to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

One parent told CNN’s L.Z. Granderson, “I’m not a city person. I’m just a backwoods hick, and I don’t think anybody around here have an issue with homosexuals. She did a wonderful job, and what they did to her was just horrible.”

He continued, “When I told my son Jen was kicked out because she is gay, he didn’t know what was wrong because he though gay meant happy. He’s just devastated.”

A grandfather of one of the Tiger Scouts, misunderstanding Granderson’s perspective and questions, got offended at what he perceived was a suggestion that Tyrrell had brought up her sexuality orientation at troop meetings.

“I do not know where you are getting your information, but never ever has sex been brought up, not in any way, shape or form. In fact, I was not aware of Jen even being gay for quite some time,” Don Thomas said. “Wasn’t an issue or concern.”

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