On Monday, March 4, National Geographic Channel will debut a new reality series in partnership with the BSA, “Are You Tougher than a Boy Scout?”
Last month, National Geographic Channel refused to speak out against the policy as well as the strategic partnership it has formed with the BSA. Today, Academy Award-winner and former Boy Scout Dustin Lance Black added his name to a Change.org petition launched by gay Eagle Scout Will Oliver, which calls on the network to run a disclaimer about the anti-gay policy online and before each episode of the series. To date, the petition has garnered more than 120,000 signatures. To view the petition: change.org/toughscouts
“As a gay man and a former Boy Scout, I couldn’t be more supportive of this effort,” said Black. “The Boy Scouts was instrumental in my maturation as a citizen and a future leader. Being denied access to such a valuable institution is most certainly hurtful to the development of thousands of young people and young self esteems. If National Geographic Channel is going to bring Scouting into millions of homes, it has a responsibility to inform viewers of the harm being caused. For the sake of our collective future, this ban must end.”
In the October 2012 Progress Report of the BSA’s National Council Strategic Plan 2011-2015, the organisation cites the show as a “strategic partnership” to push the idea that “Scouting is ‘cool’ with youth.” The Progress Report states that the BSA will work on marketing plans with National Geographic for “leveraging the show with Scouting audiences and audiences outside of scouting.”
GLAAD will deliver the Change.org signatures with Will Oliver to National Geographic offices in Washington, D.C. on Monday, March 4. GLAAD will also be informing advertisers of the close partnership that the BSA has with the show following the first episode.
“By failing to acknowledge the Boy Scouts’ discriminatory policy, National Geographic Channel is turning a cold shoulder to gay and allied viewers. Silence implies apathy towards all the Scouts and leaders who have been forced to hide who they are,” said 20 year-old Oliver. “Over 120,000 people have spoken – not to demand that the show be cancelled – but just to ask that National Geographic Channel reaffirm its core belief in non-discrimination.”
“Instead of addressing the concerns of hundreds of thousands, National Geographic Channel is running a commercial disguised as a reality series for one of the most blatantly anti-gay organizations to boost dwindling membership and distract Americans from the Scouts’ long history of discrimination,” said Rich Ferraro, GLAAD Vice President of Communications. “National Geographic Channel must therefore make it clear where the network stands.”
In response to public criticism, National Geographic Channel released the following statement on January 17, 2013:
National Geographic Channel is an international media company that is an equal opportunity employer. We do not discriminate in any capacity. As it relates to our upcoming show with the Boy Scouts, we certainly appreciate all points of view on the topic, but when people see our show they will realise it has nothing to do with this debate, and is in fact a competition series between individual scouts and civilians.
However, in a later interview with The New York Times, National Geographic Channel spokesperson Chris Albert said changing the policy would be a positive step for the BSA and also suggested that public outcry over the show was partly responsible for the BSA’s January announcement that it would reconsider the anti-gay ban:
“Obviously I can’t say for sure,” said Albert. “But I think the discussion around our show amplified the importance of this issue. And we think this is certainly a step in the right direction.”
GLAAD first started calls for the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on gay scouts and scout leaders in April 2012 after Jennifer Tyrrell, a mom and den leader from Ohio was removed from her 7-year-old’s Cub Scout Pack for being gay. Tyrrell’s Change.org petition has attracted more than 330,000 signatures in support of ending the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay Scouts and leaders.
GLAAD and Scouts for Equality have also called attention to other Americans who are continuing to be harmed by the anti-gay policy, including 18 year-old gay Scout Ryan Andresen, who was denied his Eagle award in October 2012 because he’s gay. Ryan’s mom later launched a Change.org petition calling on the BSA to give Ryan the award he has earned. That petition now boasts over 460,000 signatures.