LGBT Groups Condemn Removal of Openly Gay Scout Leader

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LGBT groups are denouncing the removal of an openly gay Scoutmaster who founded two United Methodist Church-sponsored scouting units in Seattle.

The ousted leader, Geoffrey McGrath, is thought to be the first gay adult to be removed from leadership since the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voted last year to prohibit openly gay adults from membership. “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.”

LGBT groups called the move discriminatory. “The Boy Scouts need to understand that the Scoutmaster they seek to remove is growing the Scouting movement,” said Zach Wahls, co-founder of Scouts for Equality, a national campaign to end discrimination within the Boy Scouts of America. “If this unit had not been inclusive, it would not have existed. By effectively shuttering this unit, the BSA is depriving these youth of the opportunity to be a Scout and they are telling all their youth that discrimination is okay.”

LGBT rights group GLAAD also voiced opposition to McGrath’s ouster. “How many devoted role models is the Boy Scouts of America willing to lose?” GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said in a comment to TIME. “Loving parents should have the same opportunity to take part in their kids’ lives in Scouting as any other. By ousting gay leaders and Scouts once they turn 18, the BSA is putting an expiration date on fairness and sending a dangerous message to the young people it serves.”

When asked about revoking McGrath’s membership, Deron Smith, director of BSA public relations, issued a statement:

As a part of our longstanding leadership standards policy, the Boy Scouts of America does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of our members. We don’t believe the topic of sexual orientation has a role in Scouting and it is not discussed unless it is deliberately injected into Scouting. Recently, this individual provided both Scouting national leadership and the media with information that led to his removal as a leader. The BSA does not have an agenda on the matter of sexual orientation; we remain focused on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training.

The local congregation of Rainier Beach United Methodist Church–which helped organize the units McGrath led–did not agree with the BSA’s decision either. “At our local congregation, we welcome all–and for us, ‘all’ means ‘all,’” said Reverend Dr. Monica Corsaro in a statement.

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