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Boy Scouts removes gay troop leader in Seattle

April 2, 2014

SEATTLE (AP) — The Boys Scouts of America has removed an openly gay troop leader in Seattle, saying he made an issue out of his sexual orientation.

The organization told Geoff McGrath in a letter Monday that it “has no choice” but to revoke his registration after he said he was gay while being profiled by NBC News.

“Your statement is in direct violation of the BSA’s leadership qualification,” said the letter from the Boy Scouts’ Office of General Counsel in Irving, Texas.

“I’m stunned,” McGrath, 49, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “Our hope is that they’ll rethink their decision.”

McGrath, who earned the rank of Eagle Scout, has been leading Seattle Troop 98 since its formation was approved last fall. He has taken the small troop to camp in a snow cave at Mount Rainier National Park, and they’ve worked on knots and lashing skills.

McGrath said the pastor of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church, the chartering organization, asked him to lead the troop, and they submitted an application that was approved by the Chief Seattle Council and national headquarters.

“We were transparent,” he said. “If they didn’t want us to be a troop, they shouldn’t have accepted our application.”

A call to the Chief Seattle Council was not immediately returned Tuesday.

The Boy Scouts began accepting openly gay members for the first time this year, over the objections of some participants who eventually left the organization. Gay-rights groups applauded the move, but it angered people who consider homosexuality a sin and a violation of Scouting values.

The Boy Scouts said it would continue to exclude openly gay adults from leadership positions.

“The Boy Scouts of America does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of our members. We don’t believe the topic of sexual orientation has a role in Scouting and it is not discussed unless it is deliberately injected into Scouting,” BSA spokesman Deron Smith said in an emailed statement Tuesday.

But McGrath provided information to national leadership and the media that led to his removal as a leader, Smith said.

The Rev. Monica Corsaro at Rainier Beach United Methodist Church said she and her congregation are standing by McGrath as troop leader.

McGrath, a software engineer who married his longtime partner in 2008 in California, grew up in Seattle. He was a Cub Scout, became a Boy Scout at 11, and with his twin brother earned Eagle Scout rank before turning 18.

“Scouting was the best part of our youth and adolescence,” McGrath said, adding that he, his brother and his dad went to the woods and canoed, and he climbed Mount Rainier for the first time at age 13. “Adolescence was a hard time, but that wasn’t. That was uncomplicated and wonderful in every way.”

When McGrath came out to his family and friends in 1988 at age 23, the hardest part was anticipating and expecting rejection from the Boys Scouts, he said.

He lost connection with the Scouts but re-engaged with the organization last year after his brother, David McGrath, and his nephew rode their bikes from Idaho to Texas to drum up support for allowing gay youth to participate.

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