The Boy Scouts Just Kicked Out an Openly Gay Scoutmaster

The organization claims he was “making an issue” out of the fact that he is gay.

Members of Scouts for Equality hold a rally to call for equality and inclusion for gays in the Boy Scouts of America as part of the 'Scouts for Equality Day of Action' May 22, 2013 in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Emma Roller
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Emma Roller
April 1, 2014, 12:25 p.m.

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.”

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