The Boy Scouts of America banned an openly gay Scoutmaster Monday in what appears to be the organization’s first follow-through on its decision to admit gay youth but bar gay adults from participation.
Geoff McGrath, a 49-year-old Eagle Scout and former social worker now software engineer, who’s been married to his husband for 20 years, started troop 98 along in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood along with the groups charter partner, Rainer Beach United Methodist Church, as an inclusive troop open to scouts of all sexualities. According to NBC, parents of children who joined were told McGrath was gay and the troop is described on the Boy Scouts’ website as “fully inclusive.”
In an email to NBC, Deron Smith, a BSA spokesperson, said, “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.”
Accordingly, BSA’s Chief Seattle Council did not inquire about McGrath’s orientation when he applied, said Sharon Moulds, the council’s leader, adding that she only found out McGrath was gay when NBC contacted her. “It was then that we became aware of his intentions to make a public statement about his orientation and use our program as a means to further a personal agenda.”
But McGrath insists that the troop was not a publicity stunt but an attempt to reengage the discussion around LGBT inclusion in the BSA. “If you don’t participate, you're not part of the conversation,” McGrath told NBC News in an exclusive interview. “Yelling from the outside is not conversing. So we're on the inside doing good work.”
But the BSA is not interested in conversing, and they've booted McGrath from the troop and the organization.
Zach Wahls, founder of Scouts for Equality told NBC, “This troop and this Cub Scout pack would not exist without Geoffrey McGrath and the fact that they would remove somebody who is growing Scouting just shows how out of whack this policy is.”
United Methodist said they would continue to stand by McGrath, who also has the support of his troop and many parents.
McGrath had already steeled himself against the potential loss of his post as a result of his sexuality. “This is what Scouting prepares us for,” he said, “to be prepared for contingencies and to move forward with confidence.”
Smith told NBC that the BSA has no plans to revisit its policy on gay adults but McGrath remains optimistic that "cooler minds will prevail, possibly in my case and certainly eventually, to the benefit of all of Scouting. That’s what I believe. If it doesn’t happen today, that will be disappointing, but it doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen.”