This coming Monday, National Geographic Channel will debut its new reality series, "Are You Tougher than a Boy Scout?"
Documents, uncovered by GLAAD, reveal that the new show is actually a commercial for one of the most anti-gay organizations in the country, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
In the October 2012 Progress Report of the BSA's National Council Strategic Plan 2011-2015, the organization cites its relationship with NatGeo as a “strategic partnership,” going on to describe the show as a tool to push the idea that “Scouting is ‘cool’ with youth.” The Progress Report states that the BSA will work on marketing plans with NatGeo for “leveraging the show with Scouting audiences and audiences outside of scouting.”
Today, Academy Award-winner and former Boy Scout, Dustin Lance Black, joined GLAAD and over 120,000 people, who've already called on National Geographic Channel to denounce the Boy Scouts' ban on gay scouts and leaders. Black today added his name to a Change.org petition started by gay Eagle Scout Will Oliver, who's urging the network to air a disclaimer before each episode of the series, which states clearly that NatGeo does not support discrimination.
"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."
On Monday, GLAAD and Oliver will deliver more than 120,000 signatures to the National Geographic Channel headquarters in Washington, D.C. and meet with network representatives to ask that they air the following disclaimer with the six-episode series:
"The current membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America goes against the policy of National Geographic Channel and the National Geographic Society. National Geographic Channel is an equal opportunity employer and does not support discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation."
"By ignoring the Boy Scouts' discriminatory policies, National Geographic Channel is not only turning its back on gay viewers, it's also helping to fuel anti-gay attitudes that harm countless young people who are being forced to hide who they are," said 20 year-old Oliver. "Over 120,000 people have spoken out – not to demand that the show be removed – but to simply ask National Geographic Channel to live up to its own non-discrimination policy and tell its viewers where the network stands."
“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 make it clear where the network stands.”
GLAAD will also be informing advertisers of the close partnership that the BSA has with the show following the first episode.
"Scouts and Scout Leaders like Will are recognizing the power they have by mobilizing online to challenge the Boy Scouts over their anti-gay policy," said Mark Anthony Dingbaum, senior campaign manager at Change.org. "It's clear that none of the Boy Scouts' strategic partners will go unchallenged so long as the national policy banning gay youth and parents remains intact."
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.