Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Scoutmaster, Geoff McGrath, is believed to be the first openly gay adult booted from the organization because of his sexuality.
McGrath was banned after “deliberately” interjecting his sexuality into scouting, the Washington Post reports.
“It’s extremely disappointing to not be fully supported and defended in my membership,” McGrath, who has been with his husband for 20 years, 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 in self-inflicted.”
McGrath has been part of BSA since a kid and became an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the program. At age 22, he was offered the position of assistant Scoutmaster, though it was revoked when he told the leaders of his Seattle-area troop he was gay.
McGrath struggled with their decision to cut all ties with BSA, so his identical and straight twin brother Dave decided to campaign for gays to be admitted into BSA. He started an inclusive troop.
“Mostly it’s about ending the silence,” McGrath said. Speaking out about gay and lesbian concerns in Scouting “doesn’t mean drowning out the other issues. It means becoming an equal participant with everyone else. That’s all.”
McGrath filed an application for a new troop last year through Seattle’s Rainier Beach Methodist Church, one that performs same-sex marriages, and was approved to be Scoutmaster of Troop 98.
“I wouldn’t have a Boy Scout troop unless we did it this way,” Rev. Monica Corsaro, who said she insisted McGrath serve as Scoutmaster though they knew it was against BSA policy said. “This is who we are.”
McGrath won the approval last fall.
“They were fully aware of my prior activism,” McGrath told KING 5 News. “The impact of discrimination has missed them somehow.”
According to McGrath, he was being profiled by NBC News when the outlet said his membership had been “revoked” on their website, before he had even heard the news.
“We expected better,” McGrath said. “We played our part in a transparent way and are surprised they wouldn’t back up their decision.”
Last May it was decided that gay youth, not adults, could participate in BSA, one of the country’s most popular youth organizations. McGrath, whose brother and nephew rode their bikes from the Northwest to the Boy Scouts headquarters in Texas in hopes for change, hoped letting up the ban on youth would follow suit for adults. Clearly, he was wrong.
“All gay adults who currently serve as den leaders and Scoutmasters should probably keep [their sexuality] to themselves,” McGrath said.
Parents of Troop 98 were told from the beginning their Scoutmaster was gay. All boys in the troop, but Koyle Kendrick, a gay teen who’s planning on joining, are straight.
“I’ll be more comfortable going back into Scouting and being in an inclusive troop,” Kendrick said. “[McGrath will] understand where I’m coming from.”
One mother of a member in McGrath’s troop said McGrath has done an “excellent job.”
“Anyone who is willing to step forward and provide an opportunity for our youth should be supported,” Denise Mimura said.
McGrath was hoping he would be able to set an example of a more inclusive group.
“If you don’t participate, you’re not part of the conversation,” McGrath said. “Yelling from the outside is not conversing. So we’re on the inside doing good work. Talking about gay and lesbian issue is not the biggest part of what we do – it’s the smallest part.”
McGrath is hoping “cooler minds will prevail” at BSA.
“Possibly in my case and certainly eventually, to the benefit of all of Scouting,” he said. “That’s what I believe. If it doesn’t happen today, that will be disappointing, but it doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen.”
As of Monday, the BSA said it has no plans to review its membership policy on gay adults.
McGrath said he had prepared himself for the consequences of going public about his sexual orientation, something the BSA had taught him.
“This is what Scouting prepares us for,” he said. “…to be prepared for contingencies and to move forward with confidence.”
In response to the uproar, Seattle-area Boy Scouts, Scout leaders, parents, alumni, and friends will rally in support of McGrath, and call on officials to reinstate him. GLAAD is co-sponsoring the rally with the Scouts for Equality group. Scouts for Equality is a Boy Scouts of America alumni association dedicated to ending the BSA’s ban on gay members and leaders.
“As Scouts, we believe discrimination goes against the values our movement teaches us and has no place in Scouting’s future. The creed and principles of the Scout Oath and Law will drive our mission as we work to save a great cultural icon: the Boy Scouts of America,” their mission statement reads.
Supporters are encouraged to meet Thursday, April 3, at Chief Seattle Council, Boy Scouts of America (3120 Rainier Avenue South, Seattle, WA, 98114) at 3 p.m. A map of the meeting point is located here.
“How many devoted role models is the Boy Scouts of America willing to lose?” said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis. “Loving parents should have the same opportunity to take part in their kids’ lives in Scouting as any other. By ousting gay leaders and Scouts once they turn 18, the BSA is putting an expiration date on fairness.”
Update April 4, 2014: See The Seattle Lesbian’s photos from the rally here.