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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 4 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 14
Boy Scouts dismiss openly Gay Seattle scoutmaster Geoffrey McGrath
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Boy Scouts dismiss openly Gay Seattle scoutmaster Geoffrey McGrath

by Victor Bogatko - SGN Contributing Writer

Nearly a year ago the Boy Scouts of America announced it would admit Gay boys in the youth organization but still prohibit openly Gay leaders. This week the repercussions of last year's decision have been felt - right here in Seattle. A local scoutmaster, Geoffrey McGrath, has been dismissed for being openly Gay.

The news came to McGrath on Monday in the form of a letter, stating that he failed to satisfy the leadership qualifications established by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). 'As part of those qualifications, the BSA does not permit open or avowed homosexuals to serve as volunteer leaders,' the letter states. It continues, 'the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of its volunteer leaders & but 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 to be a registered leader.'

According to the BSA, the decision to dismiss McGrath came after the organization was notified of McGrath's involvement in an NBC news story, where McGrath allegedly stated that he was Gay. Based upon this 'public' statement, it was decided that he no longer exemplified the BSA's leadership qualifications, leaving the BSA council 'no choice' but to revoke McGrath's registration.

Last fall, the 49 year-old Eagle Scout and software engineer formed troop 98 in Seattle because he loves scouting and because low-income children living in south Seattle had few opportunities to participate in after-school activities. At the time, McGrath had offered to help out in a less formal role because he had led Colorguard, a protesting Boy Scout contingent, in last year's Seattle Pride Parade and received a considerable amount of attention. Instead, he was asked by the pastor of the church sponsoring the troop to serve as scoutmaster.

The troop is sponsored by the Rainer Beach United Methodist Church, a congregation that performs same-sex marriages and promotes equality for the LGBT community. In a telephone interview Tuesday, Reverend Monica Corsaro denied she or McGrath ever misled local Boy Scout officials. Not having heard from officials of the regional body, the Chief Seattle Council, Rev. Corsaro said that McGrath will preside at the scout troop's Thursday meeting, as usual.

When asked about how this decision will affect his scouts, McGrath replied, 'I stand in my post as scoutmaster until released by Pastor Corsaro from my duties. I have not abandoned my post so this decision doesn't make any change at all to the existing day-to-day running of the troop.' He added that it will probably mean the BSA won't recognize rank advancement cards signed by him and that they likely won't permit him on BSA camp property 'but that's pretty much it. We have enough able assistant scoutmasters to pick up the slack as well as scoutmasters from other troops who are standing by as needed.'

Though McGrath's commitments to his scouts remain unchanged, he admitted the ordeal is taking a rather heavy toll on him personally. 'Thanks to all of the support from co-workers, family, friends, and especially members of the troop committee, it has been manageable; but I won't kid you, it has felt a bit like hiking a 50 miler. In the rain. With a heavy pack.'

Still, McGrath remains determined in his efforts. 'Let's build a stronger, more inclusive Boy Scouts of America,' he tweeted on his twitter page. When asked about whether or not he will continue to push for a more inclusive Boy Scouts, McGrath replied, 'I've been working to change the Boy Scout's Membership Policy quite actively for the past year. I don't see my level of advocacy decreasing going forward.'

Nationally, the decision has outraged individuals and organizations alike. The Human Rights Campaign issued a statement on Tuesday calling on the Boy Scouts to change its policy toward scout leaders. Director of Scouts for Equality, Zach Wahls, questioned the claim that McGrath had 'deliberately injected' his sexual orientation into scouting. 'He was asked about his sexual orientation,' said Wahls. 'I don't think telling the truth is a violation of scouting principles.'

Locally, Adam McRoberts, organizer of Seattle's Pride Parade was equally outraged. 'This is just ridiculous! Last year Geoffrey led Colorguard in the parade. It was like their big outing in the gay community & and now the Boy Scouts do something like this!' he exclaimed.

With so many outraged about the decision, it is not difficult to imagine the amount of support McGrath has been receiving. Supportive messages and tweets have been flooding McGrath's Facebook and Twitter pages and for that McGrath says he is very thankful for. 'People have just been really supportive,' he says. 'It has made this ordeal much more manageable.'

Earlier this week on Wednesday, McRoberts invited McGrath to once again join the Seattle Pride Parade this year. When asked if he would walk in the parade again, McGrath beamed, 'I was honored to participate in Seattle's Pride Parade last year - I hope to be a part of that again this year.'

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