US Scouts Boot Openly Gay Troop Leader

by Richard on April 1, 2014

From NBC News

The Boy Scouts of America on Monday banned an openly gay Scoutmaster from the organization, saying its national policy barred gay adults from membership.

Geoff McGrath, 49, leader of Troop 98 in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood, is believed to be the first gay adult to be booted from the Boy Scouts of America since it held a controversial ballot last May allowing gay youth—but not adults—to participate in one of the country’s most popular youth organizations. The Scouts had severed ties with gay adults in previous years, before the vote to admit gay youth, but McGrath, an Eagle Scout, had been hoping for a different response in this new era of Scouting.

“It’s extremely disappointing to not be fully supported and defended in my membership,” McGrath told NBC News. “They are complaining that the problem [his status as an openly gay man] is a distraction to Scouting and they don’t seem to understand that the distraction is self-inflicted.”

The BSA confirmed that the organization has “revoked” McGrath’s membership.

“Our policy is that we do not ask people about their sexual orientation, and it’s not an issue until they deliberately inject it into Scouting in an inappropriate fashion,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in an email. Until NBC’s inquiry, “he [McGrath] hadn’t deliberately injected it into Scouting in an inappropriate fashion,” he wrote.

“We spoke with Mr. McGrath today and based on the information he provided, the National Council has revoked his registration,” Smith added.

Until Monday, McGrath believed himself to be the only openly gay Scoutmaster in the nation, having won approval last fall to run a troop despite the organization’s ban against gay adults. McGrath said he didn’t hide his sexual orientation from Scouting leaders, but Seattle’s top BSA official told NBC News that she never knew he was gay.

The NBC headline opens ‘Extremely Disappointing’, quoting the sacked Scout Leader, but this is surely an understatement. The decision is a disgrace, both to Scouting and to Methodism. Inclusion is in the DNA of both movements and this decision is a no less than a betrayal of that dual heritage. I’m delighted that the UMC is supporting Mr McGrath and hope that a way can be found for him to remain in Scouting, even if that means his troop dissociating from the BSA. Are there any other Scouting bodies in the USA?

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Mark Byron 04.08.14 at 2:06 am

I don’t know of a gay-friendly scouting offshoot; there was a conservative grouping set up in the aftermath of the gay-kids-are-OK decision, but none that I know of that on the permissive side of the debate.

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