Seattle mayor, council back ousted gay scoutmaster

Seattle mayor, council back ousted gay scoutmaster
Geoff McGrath holds his Boy Scout scoutmaster uniform shirt for the Seattle troop he led, Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in Bellevue, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
SEATTLE (AP) - The mayor and Seattle City Council have expressed their support for a Boy Scout troop leader who was dismissed last month because he is gay.

The Boys Scouts of America revoked the membership of Geoff McGrath about two weeks ago, after officials learned about his sexual orientation when his troop was profiled by NBC News.

The scouting organization said McGrath, 49, a software engineer and Eagle Scout, violated its leadership qualifications and deliberately included his sexuality in the scouting program.

In a letter Wednesday, Mayor Ed Murray and City Council members urged the scouting organization's regional body in Seattle to respect and defend Rainier Beach United Methodist Church in its desire to retain McGrath as the scoutmaster of the troop it chartered.

"We believe Scouting is a wonderfully successful tradition, but this act of discrimination is deeply disturbing," they wrote to the Chief Seattle Council, adding that the BSA's decision about McGrath undermines its credibility in teaching admirable values.

The letter was sent to the scouting council's president, Rob McKenna, a former state attorney general. A message left with McKenna was not immediately returned Thursday. The group on Wednesday referred calls to national headquarters.

Sharon Moulds, with the Chief Seattle Council, told NBC News she found out McGrath was gay only after the news outlet contacted her.

"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 told NBC News in an email last month.

McGrath, meanwhile, continues to lead troop meetings, and the church stands by him, said the Rev. Monica Corsaro with Rainier Beach United Methodist Church.

"It's business as usual," she said, adding that neither she nor the church has heard from the BSA or the regional council on the matter.

Asked whether the organization would take action to remove McGrath, BSA spokesman Deron Smith emailed a statement Wednesday noting that McGrath "is no longer eligible to serve as an adult leader."

"Organizations that charter Scouting agree to follow the BSA's national policies. In the rare instance a chartering organization decides not to follow BSA policies, we work to place that unit's youth members in a nearby troop, with minimal disruption to their regular activities," he added.

On Thursday, Smith emailed that the "BSA is working to address this matter. We work to create an environment where the Scouting program is our main focus, so we don't have anything further to add."

The Boy Scouts began accepting openly gay youth for the first time this year but has continued to exclude openly gay adults from leadership positions.

McGrath, who is married to his longtime partner, has been leading Seattle Troop 98 since its formation last fall. He has taken the small troop to camp in a snow cave at Mount Rainier National Park.