A Boy Scout troop in Seattle that was chartered in November lost its affiliation with the national organization last week after refusing to remove a scout leader who is gay, Boy Scouts of America said.
Geoffrey McGrath first announced his sexual orientation in 1988. But last month, his personal life caught the Boy Scouts’ attention. McGrath had answered a news reporter’s question about his sexual orientation during an interview about his troop, and the reporter in turn checked in with Boy Scouts officials. They’ve tried to keep the divisive issue off the table since deciding last year to allow gay scouts, but not gay leaders.
“As you are aware, the policy of the Boy Scouts of America does not allow open or avowed homosexuals to serve as volunteer adult leaders,” the organization wrote April 17 to McGrath and the church that sponsored his troop.
"Nevertheless, the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church has stated that it ... will continue to allow [McGrath] to serve as an adult leader,” the letter said. “As a result of this refusal to comply with the policies ... Rainier Beach United Methodist Church is hereby advised that is no longer an authorized chartered organization and may no longer use the Scouting program or any of its registered marks or brands.”
McGrath said that everyone around him was aware of his sexual orientation. About three dozen state and local lawmakers wrote letters to Boy Scouts officials in support of him. But the Boy Scouts have said they have no plans in place to reexamine the ban on gay scout leaders.
In a statement, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts said the organization was “saddened” by the action it was forced to take.
Since last year’s policy change, at least two openly gay scouts have reached the organization’s highest honor, Eagle Scout. McGrath, 49, earned that same honor three decades ago before marrying his husband.
“For all of the respect I have for the local Scouts organization, the Chief Seattle Council, and the national Boy Scouts of America, the Scouts are obviously behind the times on this issue of equality,” he wrote in a recent op-ed in the Seattle Times. “I expect them to exercise judgment and leadership -- two virtues central to being a Scout -- to finish what was started with the vote last May, when the organization stopped discriminating against gay youths.”
The advocacy group Scouts for Equality is hoping the Boy Scouts will reconsider the adult ban once former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates takes over as Boy Scouts president next month.
“The Boy Scouts’ decisions only serve to hurt a group of boys who need the values and leadership of someone like Scoutmaster McGrath,” Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality, said in a statement.
The 15 boys in McGrath’s Troop 98 will be given an opportunity to transfer to troops nearby, Boy Scouts said. The United Methodist Church said it would also maintain a youth group.
“Based on our religious principles, we will continue to act as an autonomous church that does not discriminate,” the Rev. Monica Corsaro said in a statement.
The United Methodist Church is the Boy Scouts’ second-largest chartered organization, according to Scouts for Equality. The Rainier Beach church is one of more than 70 United Methodist communities in the United States that both welcomes gay members and hosts Scouting groups.
“Pastor Corsaro specifically sought out someone with my Scouting background to help get these units off the ground, and her church is now being told to violate their religious convictions," McGrath said in a statement. "It’s unconscionable and irreverent.”