March 4, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Petitions urge National Geographic Channel to oppose gay scout ban
Will Oliver, Boy Scouts of America, National Geographic, Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?, gay news, Washington Blade

Will Oliver (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A gay Eagle Scout on Monday delivered more than 120,000 petitions that urge the National Geographic Channel to speak out against the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay scouts and troop leaders.

“When I earned Eagle, it never occurred to me that I should be treated differently,” Will Oliver said outside the National Geographic Society in Northwest Washington. “I had the assurance that it is the content of my character and not my sexual orientation that defines who I am. As of today, none of this is guaranteed for a scout who is gay.”

Oliver spoke hours before “Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?,” a reality show on which the National Geographic Channel partnered with the Boy Scouts of America, was set to premier. He, Rich Ferraro of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Mark Dingbaum of Change.org met with Julie Frazier, Chad Sandhas and Chris Albert of the channel’s communications department to discuss the issue after they spoke outside the building.

Albert declined the Washington Blade’s request to comment, but Oliver said the three staffers with whom he met “were very positive and really sympathetic to the campaign.” He said they invited him to write a blog post that would be on the channel’s homepage during the show.

Oliver said the staffers cited network policy that would not allow them to issue a disclaimer against the Boy Scouts’ policy.

“While they were open to accepting the petition and spoke with Will, they really stopped short of doing the right thing,” Ferraro told the Blade after the meeting. “They’re sending a very mixed message by including a blog post from him on their homepage, yet refusing to speak out directly against this policy.”

The Boy Scouts’ ban on gay scouts and troop leaders has come under increased scrutiny in recent months as President Obama, the Human Rights Campaign and others have urged an end to the policy.

The organization last month announced it would delay any decision on whether to repeal the ban until May.

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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