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.
McGrath said starting the unit was not a publicity stunt but a bid to serve youth and rejoin the contentious discussion around gay and lesbian adult membership.
“If you don’t participate, you’re not part of the conversation,” McGrath, a 49-year-old software engineer, said in an exclusive interview. “Yelling from the outside is not conversing. So we’re on the inside doing good work. Talking about the gay and lesbian issue is not the biggest part of what we do—it’s the smallest part.”
In recent years, the Scouts have wrestled with the question of whether or not to allow gays into its ranks. The controversy came to a head last year after the Boy Scouts’ National Council voted to allow gay youth as of Jan. 1 but not adults, a decision that left people on both sides of the debate feeling shortchanged.
SOURCE: MIRANDA LEITSINGER