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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 16 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 20
Activists join Gay Scoutmaster Geoff McGrath at Sheraton Hotel protest
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Activists join Gay Scoutmaster Geoff McGrath at Sheraton Hotel protest

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On Thursday a Gay Scoutmaster and supporters protested being kicked out of Boy Scouts of America (BSA). They were kicked out of the hotel. So Geoff McGrath, the Gay Scoutmaster and others, gathered outside the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Seattle where the Chief Seattle Council for BSA was meeting, instead.

The protest, say organizers, is to demand that McGrath and Troop 98 be let back into the Boy Scouts of America after being ousted because McGrath is Gay and the troop supports him. In the meantime the troop has continued to meet, just not under the Boy Scouts name.

The national policy allows Gay scouts, but not Gay leaders.

McGrath was in his scouting gear as he held signs outside the hotel asking for equality.

Washington State Senator Jamie Pedersen was also on hand to support the efforts. Pedersen announced to the media that he is a lifelong Eagle Scout. Pedersen is also openly Gay.

Chief Seattle Council BSA leaders are saying this is a national issue with national rules they have no control over.

When pressed as to whether they will take a stand for Troop 98 they said Seattle may be ready for a Gay Scoutmaster, but the rest of the country apparently isn't.

'Well, we are in Seattle,' said McGrath. 'They are in Seattle. This is a deeply local issue.'

Supporters said it's not a matter of if Gay scout leaders are allowed, but when.

'Yes, the Boy Scouts are a top-down organization,' said Paul Binneboese, a member of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church, which hosts the troop. 'But change can happen from within. Why not here, why not now?'

Also, noon Thursday, a prayer vigil was held at the Sheraton to stand in solidarity with Geoff and all Scouts who have been dismissed for being Gay or for advocating for full inclusion, holding hands in prayer and song.

The message, according to organizers, is 'Publically Support and Defend the Integrity of our Churches.'

Reverend Dr. Monica Corsaro, Pastor of the United Methodist Church of Rainier Beach (RBUMC) presided, and the event was attended by other pastors and ministers as well as supporters of McGrath and Troop 98.

McGrath has received support from the highest levels of local government.

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee wrote to the BSA on May 9, saying he was disturbed by the decision to oust McGrath based solely on his sexual orientation. In addition, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and nine City Councilmembers, King County Executive Dow Constantine, King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, 40 Washington state legislators, and the Washington State Congressional Delegation have all sent letters in support.

If you would like to send a letter of support, you can write the Chief Seattle Council at 3120 Rainier Avenue South, Seattle WA 98114.

The topic could come up at the annual National Boy Scout meeting, which starts May 21.

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