Geoff McGrath has weathered his fair share of storms. As an Eagle Scout, he prepared for storms as he sailed on Puget Sound and camped in the crater of Mount Rainier. As a scoutmaster, he teaches the boys in Troop 98 in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood how to be prepared.
But he wasn’t prepared for the storm that blew in Monday, when he learned in an online news report that the Boy Scouts of America had revoked his membership, citing its rule banning openly gay leaders.
The ouster was the result of an “outdated and archaic policy,” McGrath said at a rally Thursday where supporters called for his reinstatement as a Scout leader.
About two dozen supporters — including Boy Scout members, ranging from Cub Scouts to adult Eagle Scouts and state Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, who is gay and wore an Eagle Scout pin on his coat — demonstrated in front of the headquarters of the Chief Seattle Council, the local BSA council on Rainier Avenue South.
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McGrath, 49, learned about his removal in a story on the NBC News website, and he received a formal letter from the Boy Scouts of America on Tuesday, he said.
He and the rest of Troop 98 were to be the subjects of an NBC News story about the new troop. The story would be about how the troop is made up of leaders and Scouts from diverse backgrounds, said the Rev. Monica Corsaro of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church, the troop’s charter partner.
“There is an African-American leader, a Vietnamese leader and Geoff (McGrath), who happens to be gay.” Corsaro said. “He’s one part of a beautiful community. There was no hiding, no secret keeping. We had nothing to hide.”
Corsaro and others involved knew McGrath was gay, but the Chief Seattle Council wasn’t aware of his sexual orientation until officials were contacted by NBC News, council executive Sharon Moulds told NBC News on Sunday.
“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,” she wrote in an email to NBC News.
Last year, the BSA passed a resolution that no youth could be denied membership “on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone,” but the statement didn’t include adults. The membership policy also states “no member may use Scouting to promote or advance any social or political position or agenda.”
McGrath said he isn’t promoting an agenda, but he is open about his sexual orientation. He said he is more concerned for the kids in Troop 98 and Cub Pack 98 than he is for himself.
“This isn’t about me,” he said. “This is for the kids who need the service.”
Susan Tennis, whose 8-year-old son, Carson, is a Cub Scout in an Olympia troop, said promoting equality is important for future Scouts. Carson wore his Cub Scout uniform at the rally.
“Discrimination doesn’t have a place in Scouting,” Tennis said.
Corsaro said the church stands behind McGrath “100 percent” and the parents of the boys have been supportive.
Despite official revocation of his position, McGrath said he plans to remain a Scout leader, and he has Corsaro’s support. “I haven’t abandoned my post,” he said.
Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or firstname.lastname@example.org