Gay Eagle Scout and outdoorsman Will Oliver delivered more than 120,000 Change.org petition signatures to National Geographic Channel as the network prepares for the premiere of their new series "Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout?";
Petition urges National Geographic to issue a disclaimer condemning the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gay Scouts and Scout Leaders
WASHINGTON, DC — Openly gay Eagle Scout Will Oliver delivered more than 120,000 petitions today to the headquarters of the National Geographic Channel, as the network premieres a brand new reality television show tonight in partnership with the Boy Scouts of America, "Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?" Oliver's petition, signed by more than 120,000 Americans, calls on the National Geographic Channel to issue a disclaimer denouncing the Boy Scouts of America's ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders.
"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 Oliver, who delivered a statement to reporters outside National Geographic Channel's offices before bringing boxes of petitions into the network's offices. "Over 120,000 people have spoken — not to demand that the show be canceled — but to ask that National Geographic Channel reaffirm its core belief in non-discrimination."
Oliver, who was joined by GLAAD in delivering his Change.org petition, would like National Geographic Channel to issue the following disclaimer before episodes of "Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?": "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."
National Geographic Channel Senior Vice President Chris Albert accepted the 120,000 petition signatures, and met with Will Oliver at the network's headquarters in Washington, DC. While National Geographic Channel told Oliver that they wouldn't issue a disclaimer, they did offer to feature a guest blog post by Will on their website.
"The National Geographic Channel staff members seemed very sympathetic to my concerns about their partnership and accepted the 120,000 Change.org petition signatures. The meeting went well, though I am disappointed with their decision not to take action against the ban on gay scouts, and I'm hopeful they will soon," said Will Oliver, who launched his petition on Change.org . "It took 120,000 voices speaking out to get this meeting. How many more will it take for National Geographic to speak out against this dangerous policy?"
The Boy Scouts of America recently announced that it would be voting on a policy proposal at its May 2013 National Conference that could end the organization's national ban on gay Scouts and Scout leaders. In an interview with the New York Times last month, a spokesperson for National Geographic Channel indicated that it would be a step in the right direction for the Boy Scouts to end their anti-gay ban, but the network still plans to air the reality show as is, without a warning about the Boy Scouts' current discriminatory policy.
Oliver, who also traveled to the Boy Scouts of America's headquarters last month with the support of GLAAD to deliver more than 1.4 million Change.org petition signatures urging the Boy Scouts to end their national ban on gay Scouts and leaders, said that National Geographic Channel was failing its viewers by not issuing a strong condemnation of anti-gay discrimination.
"The stakes are high, but there's still time to act. Tonight is the premiere of 'Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout?' and National Geographic Channel has a chance to do right by its viewers. We can't afford to be silent about things that matter - and surely, few things matter more than the equal support of all our country's youth," added Oliver.
Oliver was joined at the petition delivery today by Rich Ferraro, GLAAD Vice President of Communications, who challenged National Geographic Channel not to ignore the lengthy history of anti-gay discrimination by the Boy Scouts, which has resulted in countless numbers of Scouts and Scout leaders being barred from the organization.
"Inviting Will to write about the dangers of this policy on the National Geographic Channel website is a step in the right direction, but National Geographic Channel fell short of doing the right thing and calling for the BSA to adopt a national non-discrimination policy," said Rich Ferraro, Vice President of Communications at GLAAD. "So many current and former scouts are speaking out online and following tonight's premiere, the pressure will only continue to grow."
Live signature totals Will Oliver's Change.org petition:
Trailer for "Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout?"