At the outset of 2012, the Boy Scouts of America appeared immovable in their membership policy barring gay, lesbian and transgender members. The policy was further cemented in place by the fact that the BSA had successfully argued its legality in the Supreme Court decision of BSA v Dale in 2000. By every measure, the BSA had no need or motivation to end their discrimination.
But in April of 2012, when the BSA forced the resignation of a lesbian Den Mother, Jen Tyrell, America was ready for a change. Together with Change.org, Eagle Scout Zach Wahls launched a petition that garnered over a 350,000 petition signatures asking the BSA to reinstate Ms. Tyrell.
When the BSA refused, Zach and three other Eagle Scouts doubled down in their efforts by launching Scouts for Equality – the national campaign to end the BSA’s discriminatory membership policies.
Over the course of the next few months, SfE and Change.org garnered millions of petition signatures and Scouts for Equality grew to amplify the voices of nearly 10,000 Eagle Scouts and tens of thousands of new members. SfE leveraged BSA’s corporate donors, social media, celebrities and even members of Congress to focus intense pressure on the BSA’s antiquated and discriminatory policy.
What followed was nothing short of monumental.
Over the course of the following 5 years, the BSA took steps to 1) end their ban on gay youth, 2) gay leaders, 3) transgender members and 4) girls!