|Geoff McGrath via NBC News|
SEATTLE -- The Boy Scouts of America banned an openly gay Scoutmaster Monday, citing its national policy that bars gay adults from BSA membership.
Geoff McGrath, 49, a former Eagle Scout and BSA Leader who helped found the Rainier Beach United Methodist Church Boy Scout Troop 98, is thought to be the first gay adult leader to have his BSA membership revoked since the organisation's controversial internal ballot initiative nearly a year ago that allowed gay youth—but not adults—to participate.
“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.”
BSA spokesman Deron Smith said that it wasn't until an inquiry from the press that the organisation was aware of McGrath's sexual orientation; “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." Smith acknowledged that BSA officials questioned McGrath and revoked his membership afterwards but McGrath maintains that he didn't hide his sexual orientation from Scouting leaders initially.
“There would not be a troop at Rainier Beach United Methodist Church unless it was fully inclusive,” said Reverend Dr. Monica Corsaro, the church's pastor said in a statement.
The Boy Scouts claims that Geoff was looking to advance a ‘personal agenda.’ The only agenda Geoff was advancing was that of the Boy Scouts’ Vision - to prepare youth to become responsible leaders through the Scouting program.”
Scouts for Equality co-founder Zach Wahls told LGBTQ Nation in an emailed statement.
“If this unit had not been inclusive, it would not have existed. [...] the BSA is depriving these youth of the opportunity to be a Scout and they are telling all their youth that discrimination is okay. That’s a harmful message for all youth, gay and straight alike, and it has no place in Scouting.”
The United Methodist Church is the Boy Scouts of America’s second largest chartered (ie sponsor) organization, accounting for more than 10,000 units and 363,000 youth nationwide. Rainier Beach UMC is part of the Reconciling Ministries Network, made up of over 600 United Methodist communities across the country who welcome and affirm LGBTQ people. There are over 70 other Scouting units chartered to Reconciling Congregations throughout the United States.