Last year, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) lifted its ban on openly gay youth — but reaffirmed its ban on openly LGBT adults serving as volunteers or professionals in the organization. But one Scoutmaster and his troop’s church sponsor are standing up to the policy.
After NBC News contacted the local Boy Scout council about Geoff McGrath, it and the national organization moved to reject him. Sharon Moulds, council executive for the Chief Seattle Council, told the network, “It was then that we became aware of his intentions to make a public statement about his orientation and use our program as a means to further a personal agenda.” In a blog post defending last year’s policy change regarding gay youth, she wrote, “This has been a distraction for a long time. It is now time to get back to delivering the programs that our youth have been promised.” But instead, the council alerted the national office, which in turn announced that McGrath would be removed.
Deron Smith, spokesman for the BSA, told NBC that the organization’s policy is not to ask people about their sexual orientation, but that by his comments to NBC News, McGrath had now “deliberately injected it into Scouting in an inappropriate fashion.” As such, Smith added, “We spoke with Mr. McGrath today and based on the information he provided, the National Council has revoked his registration.”
That might have been the end of the story — the BSA is a private organization with the legal right to discriminate if it so chooses — but his troop and others have rallied to McGrath’s defense. Tens of thousands have signed a Scouts for Equality Change.org petition urging Washington-based Amazon.com to end its financial support of the organization until the ban is lifted.
“Anyone who is willing to step forward and provide an opportunity for our youth should be supported, and Geoff has done an excellent job,” one parent told NBC News. A scout in the troop told the network, that McGrath was “setting a great example” for him and the other Scouts.
With his troop’s support, McGrath is refusing to step down: “I have not tendered my resignation. Until I am relieved of my duty properly, I stand in my post.” Rainier Beach United Methodist Church Reverend Monica Corsaro told a local TV station that the church is standing by its Scoutmaster. “It’s very disappointing that a policy that is so blatantly discriminatory is being acted out, and so I think it makes us stand more firm and be more clear that Geoffrey is our Scoutmaster and Geoffrey will remain our Scoutmaster… In my humble opinion, I don’t feel like I’ve been communicated to by the Boy Scouts of America, Geoffrey also received an email which I was copied on but I have received no direct communication from the Boy Scouts of America.”
Geoff McGrath, an openly gay 49-year-old Eagle Scout, started a Boy Scout troop last year in the Rainier Beach section of Seattle, Washington. The chartering organization, an LGBT-inclusive United Methodist Church, reportedly encouraged McGrath to take the volunteer position, well aware of his record pro-equality activism.
Former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna (R), president of the the Chief Seattle Council, criticized the national organization’s ban during his 2012 gubernatorial campaign. But the BSA seems unenthusiastic about reopening the conversation about its discriminatory policies: Deron Smith said last week, “We don’t believe the topic of sexual orientation has a role in scouting and it is not discussed unless it is deliberately injected into scouting.”