Jennifer Tyrrell and her 7-year-old son have had many rewarding experiences with the Boy Scouts of America, but their participation in the national organization came to an end because she is gay, and the group does not allow open or avowed homosexuals in their membership.
Tyrrell learned the news on April 10. The loss has been devastating.
“We were like a family, so in essence … we lost our scouting family, but they also lost two members of their scouting family,” the former Tiger Cubs den leader from Bridgeport, Ohio, told msnbc.com, at points breaking down into tears.
“The best time in our lives we’ve had in the last year, it’s gone … because we can’t be scouts any more. I can’t stop crying,” she later added.
Tyrrell, a 32-year-old stay at home mother of four, said she agreed to become the den master on the day she signed up her son, Cruz Burns, for the local troop, last year. She had concerns about the Boy Scouts' policy against homosexuals, but a Cubmaster said that – locally -- they wouldn’t have problem.
“He said they would stand, you know, hand in hand with us and stand behind us all the way. Well, actually, that's been true,” she said. “I've never had a problem.”
Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said Tyrrell was removed from the program for being in violation of the national policy regarding homosexuals.
“This policy was understood by her and her fellow volunteers, but not followed, upon her registering in the program,” he wrote in an email to msnbc.com.
Tyrrell said she would still be at home, crying on the couch, if her friends hadn’t encouraged her to hold a protest in town against her dismissal and start a campaign online to seek changes to the Boy Scouts policy.
That petition has garnered more than 170,000 signatures
The Boy Scouts’ policy became a focus of the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000, when the justices sided with the organization in a lawsuit involving a former Assistant Scoutmaster who was gay, citing the protections of the First Amendment.
“Scouting, and the majority of parents it serves, does not believe it is the right forum for children to become aware of the issue of sexual orientation, or engage in discussions about being gay. Rather, such complex matters should be discussed with parents, caregivers, or spiritual advisers, at the appropriate time and in the right setting,” Smith said. “We fully understand and appreciate that not everyone will agree with any one position or policy.”
But Tyrrell said sexual orientation wasn’t a topic until her dismissal. The children just knew that Cruz had two moms, but there was no further discussion about sexuality.
She also questioned the timing of the revoking of her membership, claiming that as the recently-appointed treasurer, she was trying to iron out some financial discrepancies – and was going to formally make her queries at a meeting the day she was removed.
“She did raise question about the local unit’s finances, however her removal from the program was solely for being in violation of national policy,” Smith wrote.
Tyrrell said she will continue to push for changes at the Boy Scouts and called on them to take “the high road” and change their policy to include “all Americans.”
“… because we’re just people,” she said. “We’re just gay people who love their kids.”