US: Boy Scout leader fired for being gay delivers 64,000 petition for scouts to drop anti-gay policy
A former scout leader who signed up to help at the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) when his son joined up, but who was made to step down because he is gay, has delivered a petition with over 64,000 signatures to one of the BSA’s major donors.
Greg Bourke, of Louisville Kentucky signed up to be an assistant scout leader when his eight-year-old son said he wanted to sign up to the Scouts, however was forced to leave for being gay.
The Boy Scouts of America is currently embroiled in a debate over whether to lift its ban on gay volunteers, members and staff. Earlier in February, it delayed a vote on whether or not to lift the ban until May “due to the complexity of the issue”.
Bourke’s petition, in association with Scouts for Equality, urges United Way, a large nonprofit organisation in the US, which through local boards, allocates funding to BSA troops across the country.
At time of publication, the petition had gathered 64,224 signatures, and urged United Way to drop its funding of the BSA.
“My son is a Life Scout who should finish up his Eagle Rank requirements in the next few months, and I was with him every step of the way,” Bourke said, but went on to say that was only the case until August.
“I was told I no longer could,” he continued, saying he was made to step down once the BSA realised he was gay.
Bourke delivered the petition at the Staff Leaders conference of United Way in Indianapolis, which is taking place from Wednesday to Friday this week.
“The United Way Worldwide has the opportunity to denounce the Boy Scouts of America for its anti-gay discriminatory policy,” he said, but went on to say that he thought United Way would wait until the BSA voted on the issue in May.
United Way released a statement, saying the organisation “listens to and respects the opinions of all who have weighed in on this complicated issue. United Way Worldwide is committed to diversity and inclusion, and we encourage our members to adopt inclusive policies that create opportunities everywhere.”
According to a press release from Change.org, United Way local boards fund nearly three hundred BSA councils. Around 40 local United Way boards had already said they would no longer fund the organisation.
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Scouts for Equality, proponents of the petition, have insisted that their aim is not to deprive the BSA of its funding from philanthropic groups, but to push the organisation to be accepting of gay volunteers, members and staff.
The Boy Scouts have lost funding from several large corporate donors over the policy, including UPS, back in November, who had given over $150,000 (£95,000), Intel, another of the scouts’ largest donors, ceased funding back in September, and the Merck Foundation in December.
A California bill which would remove the tax exempt status from youth groups such as the Boy Scouts of America, if they uphold policies excluding gay members, underwent its first committee hearing last week.