Gay Scoutmaster remains ousted

Geoffrey C. McGrath’s ouster as an openly gay Scoutmaster in Seattle received national attention and was credited with helping to liberalize the Boy Scouts of America’s adult-membership policies. But almost two years after his ouster, the 51-year-old software engineer still hasn’t been reinstated.

In a recent interview, McGrath said he’s eager to return to the organization, but local BSA officials appear reluctant to take him back. 

In July 2015, national BSA officials agreed to accept openly gay Scout leaders, thereby ending a longstanding ban.

But McGrath said he’s considered “persona non grata” at the BSA Chief Seattle Council, which administers Scouting programs in the Seattle region.

“They haven’t indicated I’m welcomed back,” McGrath told PGN. “To the contrary, they’ve conveyed to other people that I’m forbidden to be a Scoutmaster again.”

McGrath added: “There’s an unspoken rule in Scouting that you don’t air your dirty laundry in public. But I violated their code of silence by protesting, after they kicked me out. So apparently they’re reluctant to have me back.”

McGrath said his return to BSA Scouting would engender goodwill in the community.

“It could be a real healing moment,” he noted.

He’d like to meet with Chief Seattle Council officials, but they haven’t returned his phone calls or emails, he said.

Two Chief Seattle Council officials — Scout executive Michael S. Quirk and Council president Rob McKenna — had no comment for this story.

After McGrath came out in March 2014, BSA officials not only revoked his membership, but they also severed ties with a Methodist church that continued to support McGrath.

As a result, about 20 Scouts under McGrath’s leadership were left floundering.

McGrath promptly arranged for most of them to join an alternate scouting organization known as the Baden-Powell Service Association.

The association, formed in 2006, has an open-door membership policy, regardless of gender, religious affiliation and LGBT status.

McGrath said Rainier Beach United Methodist Church has explored having its BSA charter reinstated, as long as he can serve as a BSA Scoutmaster once again.

McGrath said families associated with the church want assurances from the Chief Seattle Council that he’ll be reinstated before they apply for readmission.

 

“The parents and kids have already been disappointed by the council’s behavior,” McGrath continued. “They don’t want to go through another application process, unless an olive branch is tended by the council. National BSA already extended that olive branch by liberalizing the adult-membership policy. The council should do the same and invite us back, which they haven’t done.”

 

He said the families also realize BSA Scouting has unique benefits not offered by Baden-Powell’s scouting program.

 

“For instance, they know about the preferential treatment an Eagle Scout can receive, when joining the military,” McGrath said. “They also know that being a Boy Scout looks great on a resume.”

 

Still, the families remain loyal to McGrath, and they value their participation in Baden-Powell. If McGrath can’t return to BSA, the families have indicated they won’t return either, he said.

 

“We’re ready to move past all of the hurt feelings on both sides,” McGrath concluded. “We’re ready to get back into BSA. The church wants to sponsor us again. We’re just waiting for the council to show us the door is open. I realize we’ve been in a fight. And it’s hard to make up. I get that. But my hand remains extended in their direction.” 

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Tim Cwiek has been writing for PGN since the 1970s. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from West Chester State University. In 2013, he received a Sigma Delta Chi Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting on the Nizah Morris case. Cwiek was the first reporter for an LGBT media outlet to win an award from that national organization. He's also received awards from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the National Newspaper Association, and the Keystone Press.