BRIDGEPORT, Ohio — The first-graders in Ohio Pack 109's Tiger Scouts didn't know or care their den mother was a lesbian — until the Boy Scouts of America threw her out over the organization's ban on gays.
Now, parents who were aware of Jennifer Tyrrell's sexual orientation well before she took the boys on campouts and helped them carve race cars have rallied to her defense in a case that has reignited the debate over the Scouts' policy.
"I teach my children to judge people on their actions," said Rob Dunn of Bridgeport, a village of about 2,000 across the Ohio River from Wheeling, W. Va., "whether you agree with their lifestyle or not."
The Boy Scouts of America, whose oath calls for members to be "morally straight," maintains that as a private organization it has the right to exclude gays and atheists. That stance was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.
Because of the policy, Tyrrell said she only reluctantly let her 7-year-old son join in Bridgeport, where she lives with her partner and their four children. Told, she said, by the local cub master that it didn't matter that she is a lesbian, she was drafted to lead the pack in September.
Tyrrell was removed in April, after she says she was asked to be treasurer of the local Boy Scout troop — which oversees Tiger Scouts, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts — and she questioned the finances. She said the Boy Scout Council for the region told her she had to resign because she is gay.
Tyrrell said she felt betrayed. So did parents, who organized a protest last week. They demanded Tyrrell be reinstated.
"The only people who were hurt were the kids," Dunn said.