BSA Fires Eagle Scout & Staffer For Being Gay
SACRAMENTO, CA -- California BSA officials fired openly gay Tim Griffin, a 22-year-old Eagle Scout, July 20 from his job as a merit badge instructor claiming that Griffin had failed to adhere to uniform requirements and standards for appropriate dress for the summer camp, Camp Winton, located in Amador County.
When contacted by LGBTQNation, one senior scouting official from the Sacramento based Golden Empire Council, [which serves Scouts from Redding to Sacramento and runs two summer camps, including Camp Winton,] speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed that specifically at issue were Griffin's painted fingernails and earrings, adding that "there were also complaints about his 'mannerisms and behavior.'"
Griffin, an eight year veteran working on the camp's seasonal staff was crushed telling the Sacramento Bee;
"I definitely think that the reaffirmation of the anti-gay policy played a role in my termination," Griffin said.
Ten members of the camp's staff of 30 walked out in support of Griffin saying the decision to fire him was entirely about his being gay.
"It was absolutely about his sexual orientation, no question about it," said Graham Littlejohn, an Eagle Scout and the third-ranking staff member at camp told the Sacramento paper.
Glen Goddard, program director for the Golden Empire Council disputes the contention that Griffin's sexual orientation played a role in the council's decision.
"What it came down to was his failure to comply with management regarding a uniform issue. We gave him plenty of warnings," Goddard said.
California law prohibits firing a person for their sexual orientation or for gender identification. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, however found that state laws are not necessarily applicable when regarding private organisations like the scouts. In that case, Boy Scouts v. Dale, BSA attorneys had argued that their client's anti-gay stance was an essential part of the membership of the private organization and that BSA should not be required to admit gay leaders. The high court agreed.
Courtney Joslin, a professor of constitutional law at the University of California's UC Davis Law School-who had co-authored an amicus brief that was filed in the litigation challenging Proposition 8- remarked,"It appears that the Boy Scouts can fire someone because they appear to be gay."
The BSA- which also bans atheists and agnostics- oath states that its leaders and members should be "keeping oneself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."
The anti-gay ban echoes the "don't ask, don't tell" policy of the U.S. armed forces which was repealed last year. The BSA doesn't inquire about the sexual orientation of its employees, volunteers or scouts, but denies membership to openly gay or lesbian individuals.
According to Griffin, the majority of staff at the camp knew about his sexual orientation and it only came to a flash point of contention after a visiting adult leader who had accompanied a group of Scouts to camp for a week pulled him aside to tell him "he was being too gay."
He said he was proud of camp director Joel Adema, who stood up for him. But over the next few weeks Adema asked him to stop wearing the nail polish – which he said started as a quirky tradition years ago.
More than half the staff, male and female, joined Griffin in wearing nail polish, said Kayla Doria, who resigned her post as camp nature director after Griffin's dismissal.
The support for Griffin shows that the reaffirmed ban on gays is a matter of debate even within the Scouts.
Eric Morgan, an Eagle Scout who worked at Camp Winton in the 1990s, said he shies away from telling people about his Scout experience because he doesn't want to be linked to the anti-gay policy.
"I feel very conflicted. I've topped out in an organization that doesn't like gays," he said.
Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout, and founder of Scouts for Equality told LGBTQNation in an email Wednesday; "I suspect this is only the beginning. The longer the BSA drags out what we all know is an inevitable end to this policy, the more collateral damage--like this episode--they will incur along the way."
The president of the Southern Poverty Law Centre's listed anti-gay hate group Save California, Randy Thomasson, told the Bee; "The Scout policy is well known," Thomasson said. "The Boy Scouts have high standards for behavior. The Boy Scouts ought to be commended for maintaining their high standards. This guy should not have been working there once he decided he was against their stance on sexuality," he said.
Griffin said that for him the worst part was the message BSA had for him with his termination;
"They told me in a very harsh way that I don't embody the true Scouting spirit," he said.