Until Monday, Geoff McGrath, 49, was a Boy Scout leader in Seattle.
But that all changed when the Boy Scouts of America learned that McGrath was being profiled by NBC News as an openly gay scout leader. After the news outlet contacted the BSA about the story, the nonprofit youth organization sent McGrath a letter saying he was banned for “making an issue” out of the fact that he is gay.
In the letter sent to McGrath on Monday, the BSA said the scout leader violated his organization’s de facto “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy:the BSA does not permit open or avowed homosexuals to serve as volunteer leaders. The BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of its Volunteer leaders, and the BSA respects everyone’s right to privacy. The BSA also respects everyone’s right to hold a different point of view. But if a volunteer makes an issue out of his or her sexual orientation _ especially to the youth we serve _ then that volunteer is no longer eligible for to be a registered leader.
The BSA does not permit open or avowed homosexuals to serve as volunteer leaders. The BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of its volunteer leaders, and the BSA respects everyone’s right to privacy. The BSA also respects everyone’s right to hold a different point of view. But if a volunteer makes an issue out of his or her sexual orientation — especially to the youth we serve — then that volunteer is no longer eligible for to be a registered leader.
The Boy Scouts have become a battleground for conservative Christians on one side and gay-rights supporters on the other. After much hand-wringing last spring, the Boy Scouts of America decided to end its ban on openly gay scouts. However, the organization still reserves the right to ban openly gay scout leaders, who are volunteers. As of Jan. 1, the Boy Scouts declared that “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”
The pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign released a statement condemning the organization’s actions:
“Banning a caring scoutmaster who has dedicated his time and efforts to helping young men grow into adults of integrity is a moral outrage,” said Jeremy Pittman, HRC’s deputy field director and an Eagle Scout. “Parents and adults of good moral character, regardless of sexual orientation, should be able to volunteer their time to mentor the next generation of Americans.”
The BSA says that McGrath started the troop as a publicity stunt, but McGrath insists he was just trying to serve the kids in his troop. “It’s extremely disappointing to not be fully supported and defended in my membership,” McGrath told NBC. “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.”