Today, National Geographic Channel had the opportunity to meet Eagle Scout Will Oliver, who has started a petition on Change.org related to tonight’s premiere of Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout. Will’s petition called on us to air a disclaimer at the beginning of the show, but it is against our network’s policy to air any disclaimer other than those warning that “Viewer Discretion is Advised” due to content (and we have denied similar, less public requests in the past). However, we were so impressed with Will and his passion, we invited him to share his thoughts here on the Nat Geo Channel blog in advance of tonight’s premiere. Below is his post, in its entirety, unedited.

A #ToughScout is Brave Enough to Support Gay Youth
by Will Oliver

This week, as families tune in to watch the premiere of “Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout?” many will be impressed and entertained by how “tough” the Eagle Scouts are in the new series. Unfortunately, what viewers may not see on National Geographic Channel is how tough Scouting can be for gay teens who serve among Boy Scouts of America’s ranks.

It’s been tough for Ryan Andresen, an 18-year-old Boy Scout who was denied the rank of Eagle outright because of his sexual orientation, despite completing the years of necessary preparation. Fittingly, Ryan’s Eagle Project was a tolerance wall intended to offer support to victims of bullying. It’s been tough for Jennifer Tyrrell, a dedicated Den Mother who was forced out of her troop and who must explain to her sons why exactly their family isn’t welcome in the Boy Scouts of America.

After hearing stories like Ryan’s and Jennifer’s, I launched a petition on Change.org, calling on National Geographic Channel to disavow the Boy Scouts’ policy banning gay youth and adults, and to issue a disclaimer before each episode of “Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout?” This week, I joined GLAAD to deliver the signatures of more than 120,000 Americans urging National Geographic to do just that.

In my 12 years of Scouting, I was fortunate to have the support of my Scouting community. I’m one of four brothers – all Eagle Scouts – and both my parents were involved in the troop throughout our participation. Regardless of whether I felt “different” from my fellow Scouts, I was welcomed, and I was strongly encouraged in my path toward Eagle Scout. I was voted into the Order of the Arrow, an honor society recognizing Scouts who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law. When I earned Eagle, it never occurred to me that I should be treated differently. I had the assurance that it is the content of my character, and not my sexual orientation, that defines who I am.

My experience in Scouting was overwhelmingly positive – but none of this is guaranteed for a Scout who is gay. In the weeks since launching the petition, I’ve heard from hundreds Scouts and leaders like Ryan and Jennifer, who have been humiliated or insulted by the policy, sometimes to the point of bullying or harassment.

As an organization, we can do better. There are further measures we can take to ensure support for our country’s youth, and to create diverse Scouting communities that welcome children of all backgrounds. We can start now by eradicating this policy, which singles out scores of families (my own included) as unworthy of Scout membership.

The stakes are high, but there’s still time to make a difference. This week marks the premiere of “Are You Tougher Than A Boy Scout?” and National Geographic Channel has a chance to do the right thing, and join scores of Scouts and Scout leaders, celebrities, politicians and corporations who have publicly condemned the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy. We can’t afford to be silent about things that matter – and surely, few things matter more than providing equal support for all our country’s youth.

Eagle Scout Will Oliver is a 20-year-old student at Northwestern University. For most of his life, he’s been an outdoorsman and a member of the National Geographic Society. He also happens to be gay.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Tyrrell
    United States
    March 4, 2013, 8:11 pm

    Will is right! Too many people are harmed by this dangerous policy that the BSA has. It is time to take a stand for #Equality

  2. S.Z.
    Ohio, USA
    March 4, 2013, 9:17 pm

    The 12th point of the scout law is “reverent”, how can they maintain reverence if they allow this. The Bible states that homosexuality is a sin. The lack of reverence is the heart of 99% of the issues this countries face. This is a private organization, we don’t need these literalistic, sinful views shoved on us. I hope the BSA stands strong and ignores these petitions. If they change their policy, or take the “scapegoat” way out by saying it is up to the Charter Organizations, they BSA will diminish the credibility and relevance it holds.

  3. Shelley Wright
    March 4, 2013, 9:19 pm

    This is nothing more than bullying just in another way. Because people may not agree with the stand coming from the gay community . If we don’t agree with them then we all must be haters.. Not always the case. Why is it not up to the individual companies to choose what is best for them. The BSA has the right to continue with their policies as they choose.. That does not make them haters….

  4. Richard Gervase
    Washington, DC
    March 4, 2013, 10:25 pm

    Yes, Will is 100% right, except that instead of a disclaimer National Geographic should have had the good sense NOT to produce this program in the first place or to cancel it once it became clear that it had aligned its good name with blatant discrimination. As a subscriber to National Geographic publications and frequent visitor to the National Geographic museum, I feel compelled not to renew until NatiGeo reverses course. I am a former scout (my mom was a den mother), but as a gay father of two boys, I can’t introduce my children to the benefits of scouting. My younger son came home from Kindergarten with a flyer about scouting and was in tears when he realized our family would not be welcome. I’m truly appalled that a respected institution like National Geographic has opted into a discriminatory alliance and tarnished its good name. As a result, my family will not only miss out on the benefits of scouting, but regrettably we will have to find other magazines, television stations, museums, and educational programs to replace National Georgraphic’s offerings. I urge others to do the same. What a shame.

  5. Jacquelyn Gee
    Rhode Island, US
    March 4, 2013, 11:38 pm

    Very brave and inspiring young man! We all need to stand up for what’s right and what Will is doing is exactly that. It’s people like him that make this world a better place by doing what they can to protect the well being of others. Keep up the amazingly courageous work!

  6. David Cary Hart
    http://www.slowlyboiledfrog.com
    March 5, 2013, 12:00 am

    National Geographic is enabling discrimination. This entire enterprise is a PR campaign by the BSA. Forcing children to lie about who they are is a form of abuse. Not accepting them for who they are is disgraceful.

  7. Roger Ball
    United States
    March 5, 2013, 1:36 am

    I don’t understand why the lifestyle of 3% of the population has to be forced upon the Boy Scouts nor upon the entire population. It is just immoral to force me to accept that the male homosexual sex act is normal and which has led to tens of thousands of cases of AIDS. And now the gay activists are forcing elementary, middle and high schools to present this lifestyle as part of the curriculum to our youth as normal and acceptable. Let the homosexuals live their lives as they will and let me and my troop live our lives in peace. As a youth, I was the victim of an attempted homosexual act by a homosexual Merit Badge counselor. This memory has haunted me for decades. After forcing the BSA to disgorge millions of dollars to the victims of these acts why in the world would we want to foster a culture that now promotes this as normal?

  8. Russ Wiggins
    Texas
    March 5, 2013, 1:48 am

    The BSA is a private organization and has every right to develop its own bylaws to selfgovrn. Being religious based, scout oath – duty to God, it sets a certain standard and if one doesn’t want to obide by it then dont be in it. Funny how the religious element isn’t being question while its ban on open homosexuals is.

  9. Terry Willemin
    March 5, 2013, 7:34 am

    How is this a dangerous policy? The BSA and parents want to protect their sons from the homosexual agenda. BSA is not the forum for sexual education, nor was it ever intended to be. As a matter of fact BSA encourages all sexually aligned discussions be between parents and their children. BSA’s current policy is VERY similar to “don’t ask; don’t tell” and I agree with that strongly. As a unit commissioner, I have had the opportunity to talk to other leaders and parents and they feel the same. They are okay with boys who may have a same gender attraction in their troops as long as he is not sexually active and not preaching homosexuality. Most people outside of scouting do not realize that any sexually active (homosexual or heterosexual) young man is not able to be a scout. That is the policy and most heterosexuals are accepting of that, but from what I can tell, the homosexual agenda appears to be against even that; almost promoting sexual activity! That is not what young men need.

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    March 5, 2013, 10:00 am

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  11. [...] response to Will Oliver‘s Change.org petition, the National Geographic Channel published a blog post from Oliver, titled “A #ToughScout is Brave Enough to Support Gay Youth”. It’s a [...]

  12. Scott Bodenheimer
    United States
    March 5, 2013, 1:10 pm

    This is the 21st century, and there is no protection or sanctuary or exclusion any more in the Western World to spare hateful people from the reality of equality for LGBTQ people. You cannot evade it. You will not prevail. One day you will die and your outmoded ideas will die with you. And the world will be better for having one less bigoted and uneducated mealy-mouthed person. The world only spins forward.

  13. JV
    Lincoln, CA
    March 5, 2013, 4:12 pm

    The BSA is a private organization, but one that uses public resources in many cases as meeting venues. My son’s pack used a local elementary school library last year, for instance. And even if there was somehow a way for an institution to rely 100% on non-public resources, it’s becoming more and more clear and accepted that a group can’t discriminate based on sexual orientation. The driving force of the United States is towards greater inclusion. Throughout our history, that force has never lost, and those who fought against it are now seen as misguided. The same will be said of those fighting against equality for the LGBT community. In 20 years’ time, this Boy Scout policy will be seen as an unfortunate relic from the past, and the Boy Scouts will be as strong as ever.

  14. David Cary Hart
    http://www.slowlyboiledfrog.com
    March 5, 2013, 5:38 pm

    Mr. Ball:

    1. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with lifestyle.

    2. Gays are likely to be 5% or more of the population but the percentage is irrelevant. Discrimination is discrimination regardless of the size of the minority group that is being discriminated against.

    3. Gay or straight, presumably none of these boys is married. Does the BSA investigate if straight kids are having premarital sex?

    4. Gay teens are demonstrating more integrity than those attacking them. They could just as easily lie about their sexual orientation.

  15. Adam
    Canada
    March 6, 2013, 5:53 am

    Very Brave young man. Still, as a very big fan of National geographic I am very dissapointed that the channel agreed to sponsor this organisation and their archaec discriminatory ideals.

  16. [...] Geographic will not put a disclaimer in front of Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout, but did publish an essay from Eagle Scout Will Oliver on its blog explaining the Scout’s anti-gay [...]

  17. Bike Guy
    New York state
    March 6, 2013, 3:29 pm

    I am seriously disappointed that such a vaunted institution as National Geographic did not pull this extended ad for BSA once they became aware of its discriminatory policies. I truly doubt they would have maintained their relationship if the group blatantly discriminated against Muslims, blacks, or some other group. It shows it is still acceptable to discriminate against gays. They should have at least held the program until May, pending BSA’s lifting the ban.

    We are a married two-dad family. We are both former Scouts and this ban is personally painful for us and for our kids, especially when we see lies and ignorance spread. Perhaps the most reprehensible aspect of this ban is its impact on gay teens, especially at a time of epidemic suicides.

    Please understand that the ban on gay teens and gay men has absolutely nothing to do with sexual abuse as some imply. Conservative Christians love that confusion since it supports their own theological hatred of homosexuality. Openly gay men are in fact less likely to be pedophiles than heterosexually married men (please see the APA web site among others). Most of the abusers in the BSA’s secret files were married to women, a la Sandusky.

    Both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are today mixed gender groups: Men can volunteer with Girl Scouts and women can volunteer with Boy Scouts. Both groups realize that there must be controls in place that will work regardless of adult sexual orientation.

    I don’t care who the Scoutmaster is married to, I don’t want him (or her) sharing a tent alone with my 12-year-old son (or daughter). Singling out gay men is unfair. If the BSA were to eject a class of men based on public prejudices it could just as easily start with Catholic priests or heterosexually married football coaches. But that would be wrong.

    The real reason for the ban is that conservative Christians believe we gay people are ‘immoral’ and that is indeed what the BSA web site says. Read it:

    “We believe that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the requirement in the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight”

    The ban was put in place in 1992 after Baptists, Methodists and above all Mormons had tipped the Scouts from the non-sectarian group that Baden Powell envisioned into a fundamentally religious one. Mormons are 2% of the USA but today control more than a third of troops. Mormon and Baptist Scouts rarely form mixed groups and often meet in churches and hold religious services. No wonder they seem to have confused the troops with their churches. This approach distorts the universal and non-sectarian spirit of Scouting. Scouts do not discriminate and remain non-sectarian in other Scouting nations, such as France, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and the UK, where Scouting was founded.

    Moreover these fundamentalists Christians are hypocrites. Jesus never once mentioned homosexuality but clearly did not like divorce. I have heard of no push to expel divorced men. No rules prevent ex-cons, adulterers, alcoholics, or single men living with their girlfriends from being Scout leaders. Conservative Christians are silent on all. The ban is really about fear and hatred of gay people, which NatGeo seems to be willing to condone.

    Not surprisingly, the same regions (Utah, the South) and the same religious groups (Mormons, Southern Baptists) that fought the integration of African-Americans in the Scouts thirty years ago are fighting the integration of families likes ours today. Fear and hatred seem to be their hallmark.

    I was a Scout in NYC in the 60s and 70s and tolerance ruled. We were Jews, Chinese, Protestants, Blacks and we didn’t meet at a church. The focus was on nature and the outdoors. I never thought of the Scouts as a particularly religious group and there was no ban on anyone, including gays.

    I am proud that a solid majority of Americans (55% to 33%) now agree that the BSA should return to its non-sectarian roots and that the ban against gay men and boys should end. They know that what is best about our nation is that we work together despite our different beliefs. They know that these are not the Boy Scouts of Conservative Christians but the Boy Scouts of America, all of America.

    We can each believe the other is immoral. Our two-dad family is widely respected in our rural New York town and our church, family, community, and government honor our relationship. In my own ethical system, I believe that people who drive giant gas-guzzling SUV’s are immoral. But I have no desire to keep Hummer-driving parents out of the Scouts. As Americans we respect diverse beliefs even if we do not share them. We are not Iran.

    I quote Scouting’s founder, Lord Baden Powell:
    “Buddha has said: ‘There is only one way of driving out Hate in the world and that is by bringing in 
Love.’ Scouting’s aim is to produce healthy, happy, helpful citizens, of both sexes, to eradicate the prevailing narrow self interest, personal, political, sectarian and national, and to substitute for it a broader spirit of self-sacrifice and service in the cause of humanity.”

    I look forward to rejoining the Scouts. The ban’s end will be a non-issue as it was in the military. I have faith that if at the Jamboree we meet Mormons and Baptists (and Hummer drivers!) we may disagree on what is moral, but we will all somehow get along and perhaps even learn from each other.

    That is the American way. I would think of anyone National Geographic’s management would understand this.

  18. Shawn McCaskill
    United States
    March 6, 2013, 5:52 pm

    As some one who has never scouted, my opinion may be some what limited. As some one who IS currently dating an adult Eagle scout, I’d have to say that the BSA helped shape an amazing human.

    Don’t ask don’t tell. You guys really think that will work huh?

    Take just one day, just one day and play the pronoun game that a scout in this position would be forced to play. Change all names of significant people in your life to the opposite gender version of their name or opposite gender pronoun in conversation. Or better yet, say nothing. See how limited your interactions then become. Then ask yourself, “How could such a choice possibly be healthy for the person involved? How would such a choice and course of action develop a young and growing mind? ”

    The answers may not be pretty.

  19. Tazzari
    Edmonds, WA
    March 6, 2013, 5:55 pm

    Will is brave a right. Many thanks to you, sir!

    Those who claim biblical justification of exclusion do NOT speak for all Christians – very many of whom accept GLBT persons as full members of the Body of Christ.

    But past that, how does the BSA justify encouraging young men to lie about themselves? Why does it punish honesty and self-knowledge?

    It is a pity. The BSA have much to teach, but they are fast losing authority and credibility.

  20. Shawn McCaskill
    United States
    March 6, 2013, 5:56 pm

    Really? Nat Geo? Really? I did you guys support anti-integration as well? IF you are going to post one side of the story, you should at the very least display the other.

    Post on our web site, we’re going to show the piece with out mentioning that btw.

    Truly, as some one who has grown up reading your publications and supporting your channel I find myself surprised that you have chosen this course of action. Surprised and disappointed. Until this course of action is changed I will no longer be buying any of your products or supporting your company will be encouraging those that do to find a different organisation to support.

  21. Catherine M Wilson
    California
    March 6, 2013, 10:49 pm

    Sooooo disappointed in National Geographic for not knowing that the BSA is a hate group.

  22. rob
    Tennessee
    March 6, 2013, 11:54 pm

    Nat’l Geo should be ashamed for supporting hatred, bigotry, and intolerance. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” A hate organization like the Boy Scouts should be condemned, not honored. It’s disgusting that any person or entity supports the Boy Scouts at all. Until their discriminatory policies change, they should be treated as a pariah organization. First it was gays that were banned. Next it will be Jews, then blacks, then Muslims, then the handicapped, then any other person that doesn’t fit into the ideal image of a Boy Scout. Any parent exposing their child to the bigoted ideas of the Boy Scouts should be investigated by their state’s child welfare department. It’s the same as exposing them to any other poison. It is patently unfair that gays and their families should be devastated by discriminatory actions, while the bigots and their families go about enjoying their lives as if nothing has happened. It’s time to start making bigots pay for the discriminatory actions they take. When they have to pay a price, they might start to rethink their actions.

  23. Roger Ball
    United States
    March 7, 2013, 11:12 am

    Ms. Wilson,

    You obviously know nothing about the Boy Scouts of America and to call the organization a hate group is inflammatory, derogatory and wrong. The Supreme Court affirmed the BSA, as a private organization, the right to associate with whomever they decide.

  24. Roger Ball
    United States
    March 7, 2013, 11:23 am

    Mr. Hart,

    Would you send a boy who is a football player to Penn State to be coached by Mr. Sandusky? Would you send a boy to scouting to be led by someone like Mr. Sandusky?
    The Boy Scouts of America has the freedom to associate with whomever they please as affirmed by the Supreme Court. I do not have to accept your premise that male homosexual intercourse is normal and nor do I have to accept your premise that I have to associate with individuals who practice that lifestyle. Similarly, you do not have to associate with me for which I am forever grateful.

    Roger

  25. Tami
    Washington
    March 7, 2013, 3:00 pm

    Well, here’s the definition of a hate group from the study: Hate Groups for Dummies: How to Build a Successful Hate Group. http://www2.webster.edu/~woolflm/HateDummies.pdf
    From 2 pshycologists at Webster University.
    Definition is actually from the first 2 sentences in the introduction…”Hate does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, hate is learned, often from ones family, but also through the groups that one joins.”
    No one has to accept any premise, simply look at the facts. Child molesters are primarily white, HETROsexual males, usually with their own families and children. Look this up and be surprised with the educataion. After all, the mind is a terrible thing to waste. Limiting associations is a very cavelike way to live so good luck with that.

  26. Russ Wiggins
    United States
    March 7, 2013, 5:23 pm

    Mr. Ball,

    You are completely right. Living in America we have the right to choose who we associate with and what groups/societies we wish to join. Anyone who has ever been to a large university has seen a variety of groups composed of like members. There are Black, Jewish, Asian and even Gay fraternities that write bylines for membership and even exclude those who don’t meet them as is their right to do. Jews don’t have to accept Muslims and Asian don’t have to accept people of non-Asian decent.

    Strangely I don’t ever recall seeing these various crusaders for justice protesting any of these groups at the very Liberal University of Texas I attended.

  27. Ryan
    Florida
    March 7, 2013, 6:04 pm

    Roger Ball,

    No one would send their child to be coached by Mr. Sandusky. By using that as your example, you are just showing how ignorant you are. Obviously, there are bad people in this world, but they are both gay and straight. Hopefully, you will realize that the vast majority of gay people are great people. Hopefully, you won’t continue to live your life hating many many people for this one reason.

  28. Roger Ball
    United States
    March 9, 2013, 12:32 pm

    Ryan,

    I am not ignorant. I don’t hate gay people but I refuse to be forced to associate with individuals whose sex acts are immoral and disgusting. I respect their right to live their lives as they wish but I will not have them jam their view of sex down my throat or the throats of my children and accept it as normal.

  29. Norma
    Oregon
    March 11, 2013, 3:15 pm

    I am saddened to read all of this. People accusing others of “hating” them because they don’t buy into their personal beliefs. What a crock. The only people on here screaming “hate” and “prejudice” are the ones that appear to be in support of the lifestyle.

    Although I firmly believe in a person’s God-given right to choose whatever lifestyle he or she wants, it is MY God-given right to reject it and not support it.

    First off…the BSA does not condone lieing in any way, shape or form. To say they are encouraging lieing is just plain stupid. Of the posts on here, the only ones saying to lie are those that support the gay/lesbian lifestyle. Stop putting words in other people’s mouths. Just makes you look more ignorant than I am certain you are.

    One of you posted a ridiculous comment about percentages. You took this from an interview. The polls mentioned in this interview were all done outside of Boy Scout membership. Why did you not quote the percentages of actual Boy Scouts and their families that do NOT want gays integrated into scouting?

    David..you blew my mind with this comment. “Forcing children to lie about who they are is a form of abuse.” Forcing CHILDREN. So…you are saying the gay/lesbian community advocates CHILDREN participating in sexual activities? That is very difficult for me to fathom. Why would anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, any differences at all..encourage CHILDREN this way. You need to rethink your personal values, Sir, and stop putting that label on gays/lesbians.

    Not that the opposition of the ban care…but did you know…Among the biggest backers are the Catholic Church and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to BSA. In 2011, Mormon-backed Cub Scout and Boy Scout units accounted for more than 420,000 of all Scouts nationwide, while more than 200,000 other scouts were members of units affiliated with the Catholic Church. Look it up for yourselves.

    So…2.7 million boy scouts and almost a million do NOT want gays in boy scouts. Gimme a break.

    If you don’t like how the BSA runs things, start your own group. Heaven knows everyone else has…and guess what…they won’t let me in because I’m female, white, and actually I’ve been turned away because I am AMERICAN. Go figure.

    So stop all the whining about discrimination. Try being a white, American, female IN AMERICA. No greater discrimination. You have only to walk onto a college campus and ask all the foreign students where they get their student aide. I’ve been turned down….face-to-face…for $320 to pay for books because the japanese kid standing in the line next to me needed $18,500 so he can live here in the states and go to college.

    PFFFFFTTTTT…grow up and leave National Geographic alone. Be thankful they even opened this up for comments. Oh wait…maybe you want to close them down because they dare..HOW DARE THEY…to not jump on your band wagon and kick around 2.7 million boys scouts and their families so you can talk about how discriminated against you are.

    Get over it. Start your own organization. And stop being such Negative Nellies. You only embarrass yourselves.

    That said…have a great day.

  30. Dopro
    March 19, 2013, 2:50 pm

    I saw Jennifer Tyrell on the news, and judging by her comments regarding her experience with scouting, I have to doubt the legitimacy of her claims. If she was involved with her son’s pack, then she would know that boys his age do not work on merit badges. I don’t know who she was working on merit badges with, but it wasn’t her son.

  31. Peyton
    March 19, 2013, 8:13 pm

    As an eagle scout myself i recongnize the bsa’s right to deny homosexuals to the scouting community. To achieve my rank i vowed to live by the scout law and oath. Reverence being a law and morally straight a part of the oath. For many, homosexuality goes against both. I personally do not hate homosexuals and believe they are people the same us the rest of us but i do not agree with homosexuality it self. Morality aside the bsa, a private organaztion has the right to maintain the principles and ideals it has been representing for decades. That is a safe enviroment for learning and growth. If homosexuals were permited how would adults possible allow their child to go camping when their son’s tentmate might be homosexual. It would be like allowing your teenage spend to spen the night at his girlfriends. its a bad idea.

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  35. CJ
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    June 28, 2013, 7:42 pm

    As an American I have to say that I agree with the scouts that they should not allow homosexuals to join their groups. While some might say that we need to be a country of equality and allow everyone the ability to do whatever it is they choose, that is what is wrong with America. America was formed with biblical view as our core and that is what America needs to get back too. I do not hate homosexuals but I do believe they have begun to overstep what they call their rights or freedoms. Homosexuals should not have the right to join organizations where parents who don’t approve of their lifestyle would have to put their children into the potential offensive situation. I can say that as a father I don’t allow my child to witness any potentially offensive material including anything that has to do with homosexuality. Now here’s the funny part about that my mother is a lesbian and she knows that I disapprove of her life choices and because of this she never does anything that I would deem offensive around my son. America we as a whole need to wake up and realize that allowing homosexual marriage and interactions to continue will inevitably put our country in the ground no country has ever prospered that allowed so many wrong doings when it came to marriage or constant bombardment by homosexuals.

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