Scouts for Equality

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Scouts for Equality
Scouts for Equality.jpg
MottoA Scout is Equal
FormationJune 7, 2012
Region served
United States
Founding Members
  • Brad Hankins
  • Justin Bickford
  • J. Justin Wilson
  • Justin Paul Wilson
Executive Director
Justin Paul Wilson
Main organ
Board of Directors
Scouts caring Scouts for Equality banners at 2017 Capital Pride parade.

Scouts for Equality (SFE) is an American advocacy organization that advocates for equal treatment within the Boy Scouts of America's (BSA) for all scouts and scout leaders, regardless of sexual orientation.[1] On July 17, 2012, the BSA reaffirmed a policy, first established in 1991, which prohibited "known or avowed" gay scouts and scout leaders from participating in the organization.[2]

On May 23, 2013, the BSA approved a resolution to remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone (effective January 1, 2014), but maintained the national ban on gay scout leaders.[3] Scouts for Equality continues to advocate for an end to the BSA's requirement that scout leaders be heterosexual. In late May 2015, Robert Gates, the president of the BSA, called for an ending of the ban on gay scouting leaders.


In April 2012, Jennifer Tyrrell, a lesbian Den Mother from Ohio, was ousted from her son’s Cub Scout Pack.[4] A friend sent her story to GLAAD (formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), which introduced her to (Change), an online petition platform. Ms. Tyrrell’s petition asking for reinstatement gathered 275,000 signatures in a matter of days. Zach Wahls—a straight Eagle Scout who rose to national prominence after a video of his testimony before the Iowa legislature about his lesbian parents became YouTube’s top political video in 2011—delivered Ms. Tyrrell’s petition to senior BSA leadership at their annual national meeting in late May 2012.[5]

As a continuation of their work in delivering this petition to the BSA, Mr. Wahls and Jonathan Hillis—a former BSA Executive Board youth member and a fellow straight Eagle Scout—founded Scouts for Equality (SFE), an organization of Scouts opposed to the BSA’s ban on gay Scouts and Scouters.

One month after the founding of SFE, the BSA publicly re-affirmed their ban on gay members and leaders.[6] In the wake of that reaffirmation, Scouts for Equality led a nationwide campaign to highlight both the devastating impact of the ban on youth and adults, both gay and straight, and the detrimental long-term effects on the BSA’s future. The campaign received wall-to-wall coverage when Scouts for Equality broke the story of Ryan Andresen, an all-American youth from California who was denied his Eagle Scout award because he was gay.[7] Amid mounting pressure—both Mitt Romney[8] and Barack Obama[9] called on the BSA to end their ban—the Boy Scouts of America decided, after more than thirty years, to publicly address the issue and announced in February 2013 that the ban would be put up to a vote of their 1,400-member National Council in May, 2013.[10]

Scouts for Equality had a three-month window to influence this vote, and put together a team of twenty-three full-time campaign staff with a heavy emphasis on field organizing. In April, the BSA announced that the resolution to be voted on in May would not address their ban on gay adults and would only concern gay youth. However, instead of proposing a “local option” that would have allowed individual councils to enforce the ban at their discretion, this “youth option” would be nationwide. On May 23, 2013, the Boy Scouts of America’s National Council voted 61.3% in favor of ending the BSA’s longstanding ban on gay youth.[11]

SFE is now executing a long-term three-pronged strategy for growing inclusive Scouting, which was announced in December, 2013:

1. End discrimination against adult leaders within the BSA.

2. Create a safe culture of inclusiveness for all youth through bullying prevention programs and ensuring the new membership policy is implemented consistently across all levels of the BSA.

3. Grow an inclusive Boy Scouts of America by increasing membership and creating new inclusive Scouting units.


SFE encourages and provides support to local Boy Scout councils and troops to decline to participate in enforcing BSA's anti-gay policy, and tracks such actions, like the Northern Star Council (Minnesota),[12] and Connecticut Rivers Council.[13]

The organization tallies the many donors who have withdrawn or threatened to withdraw their support, such as United Way of Cleveland[14][15] and United Way of the Capitol Region (Pennsylvania).[16]

The organization also maintains a list of Eagle Scouts who return their awards to the BSA in protest of the organization's ban on non-heterosexual members and leaders, though it does not recommend returning the award.[17] In October 2012, Scouts for Equality announced that more than 300 Eagle Scouts had returned their awards.[18] Scouts for Equality has also collected Eagle Scout awards submitted in protest of the BSA's policies and forwarded them to Ryan Andresen, a 17-year-old California scout who completed the requirements for Eagle Scout but whose award was denied by his scoutmaster because he is gay.[19][20]


Primarily by gathering electronic signatures through, SFE has successfully lobbied organizations that provide the BSA with financial support. SFE had collected over 500,000 signatures by August, 2012[21] and announced passing the 1 million signature milestone on November 23, 2012.[22]

Intel Corporation, one of BSA's largest corporate donors, withdrew its funding in September 2012, though it said its decision was not based on the campaign by Scouts for Equality but on changes in its own corporate policies.[23] Another major donor, United Parcel Service, terminated their support to BSA in November, 2012[24] after extensive lobbying by SFE members and supporters.[25]

As of November 19, 2012, SFE has begun petitioning Verizon (VZ), who through their foundation gave $315,000 to the Boy Scouts of America in 2010, in violation of their eligibility requirements.[26]

On May 21, 2015, BSA President Robert Gates called for an ending of the ban on gay scouting leaders. He stated that the BSA "cannot ignore the social, political and judicial changes taking place in our country....We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained." Gates called on the board to consider his proposal, but stopped short of asking the board to vote that same day. Gates also stated local jurisdictions would be able to decide membership according to their beliefs. The announcement was praised by Zach Wahls, the Human Rights Campaign, and Scouts for Equality, among others.[27][28][29]

SFE and their work have been endorsed by a number of organizations. Faith organizations that have publicly announced their support include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hunter, Jeannine (6 August 2012). "Eagle Scout pushes against Scouts ban on gays one member, council at a time". Washington Post. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  2. ^ Eckholm, Erik (17 July 2012). "Boy Scouts to Continue Excluding Gay People". New York Times. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  3. ^ BSA (23 May 2013). "Boy Scouts of America Membership Standards Review Voting Results".
  4. ^ JAMES, SUSAN DONALDSON. "Lesbian Cub Leader Fired for Being Gay, Fights Boy Scouts". ABC News. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
  5. ^ Ng, Christina. "Eagle Scout Challenges Boy Scouts' Anti-Gay Policy With Petition". ABC News. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
  6. ^ Eckholm, Erik (17 July 2012). "Boy Scouts to Continue Excluding Gay People". The New York Times. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
  7. ^ Bennett-Smith, Meredith (10 January 2013). "Ryan Andresen, Gay Scout, Officially Denied Eagle Scout Honors". Huffington Post. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
  8. ^ Borchers, Callum (7 August 2012). "Group opposing Boy Scouts' ban on gay members counts Mitt Romney as a supporter". Boston Globe. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  9. ^ Snow, Justin (8 August 2012). "Obama, Romney Against Boy Scouts' Gay Ban". Metro Weekly. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  10. ^ RICHTER, MARICE (6 February 2013). "Boy Scouts of America delay vote on ending ban on gays". Reuters. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
  11. ^ Phil Gast. Greg Botelho and Devon M. Sayers (24 May 2013). "Boy Scouts to allow gay youths to join". CNN. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
  12. ^ Smith, Kelly (18 July 2012). "Despite national policy banning gays, the largest Boy Scout group in Minnesota will stay inclusive". Minneapolis Star Tribune. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  13. ^ Hladky, Gregory B. (21 August 2012). "Connecticut Boy Scouts Are Changing Their Policy on Gay Members, and It's Paying Off". Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  14. ^ Suttell, Scott (25 September 2012). "Change in United Way diversity policy jeopardizes support to local Boy Scouts council". Crain's Cleveland Business. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  15. ^ Davis, Dave (25 September 2012). "United Way of Greater Cleveland moves to pull funding in 2013 for Boy Scouts over group's prohibition of gay members". Cleveland Plain Dealer. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  16. ^ Snyder, Myles (24 August 2012). "United Way chapter to end agreement with Boy Scouts council". ABC27. Retrieved 16 October 2012.
  17. ^ Renounced Eagles. Scouts for Equality Retrieved 24 June 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  18. ^ Leitsinger, Miranda (12 October 2012). "Gay teen denied Eagle Scout: 'Change is happening' over Boy Scouts anti-gay policy". NBC News. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  19. ^ "Scouts for Equality - Sending Eagle Awards to Scout Denied His Rank". Daily Kos. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  20. ^ "Scouts pledge Eagle pins to bullied gay Boy Scout". Erie Gay News. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  21. ^ Colarusso, David (2012-08-14). "Eagles for Equality". Huffington Post. Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  22. ^ "1,103,147 signatures opposing the BSAs ban". Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  23. ^ "Intel pulls funds from Boy Scouts over policy barring gay scouts and leaders". ABC15. 23 September 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  24. ^ Zimmerman, David (12 November 2012). "UPS ceases funding for Boy Scouts of America due to anti-gay policy". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 12 November 2012.
  25. ^ Taffet, David (12 October 2012). "LGBT groups target Boy Scouts' donors". Dallas Voice. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  26. ^ Requirements "Verizon Foundation Grant Eligibility Requirements" Check |url= value (help). Retrieved 26 November 2012.
  27. ^ Bacon, John (May 21, 2015). "Boy Scout president calls for end to ban on gay leaders". USA Today. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  28. ^ Hennessy-Fiske, Molly (May 21, 2015). "Boy Scouts president's call to end gay leader ban draws mixed reaction". LA Times. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  29. ^ Crary, David (May 21, 2015). "Boy Scouts' Leader Says Ban on Gay Adults Not Sustainable". ABC News. Retrieved 28 May 2015.
  30. ^ Murray, Ross (May 19, 2013). "People of faith support equality in Scouting". GLAAD. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  31. ^ "Call to Action". United Church of Christ. May 17, 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  32. ^ Witkovsky, Benny (Feb 7, 2013). "Ban on Scouts Undermines Shared Principles". Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Retrieved 5 June 2015.

External links[edit]