The nation’s largest gay civil rights group is calling on the Boy Scouts of America to end its longstanding discriminatory ban on gay adults in Scouting after BSA leaders revoked the membership of an openly gay scoutmaster in Washington state when he came out in an NBC News profile.
Geoff McGrath, 49, leader of Troop 98 in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood, is believed to be the first gay adult to have his membership in the Boy Scouts of America revoked since last May’s controversial vote by the BSA to allow gay youth — but not adults — to participate in the organization.
McGrath was being profiled by NBC News. BSA leaders said he was "making an issue" out of his sexual orientation.
"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, deputy field director with the Human Rights Campaign and also 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 sent a letter to McGrath that to the HRC sounded like the old defense of the now-defunct "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gays in the U.S. militry. The letter said that 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. That has been part of the adult leadership qualifications for many years.”
McGrath is not the first gay person to be ousted as a scoutmaster, but he is believed to be the first since the BSA's new policy allowing gay boys to participate went into effect.
Two years ago, Jennifer Tyrrell launched an online petition calling on the Boy Scouts of America to end its national ban after she was ousted as her son's den leader because she is a lesbian.
That campaign fueled a national drive that many people say helped sway the BSA leadership to change its policy for boys.
It also led a number of groups and companies to withdraw support from the BSA because of its continued discrimination.
HRC, meanwhile, has a new requirement in its corporate equality index. To receive a perfect score, companies have to "prohibit philanthropic giving to non-religious organizations that have a written policy of anti-gay discrimination, or permit its chapters, affiliates or troops to do so."