A former Boy Scout leader is fighting for change after being forced to step down because he is gay. That former leader met with members from one of the Boy Scouts’ major financial backers at their annual staff leaders conference in Indianapolis to make his case Wednesday.
“I was forced to leave, just because I was gay,” said Greg Bourke, former assistant scout leader.
Bourke still wears his scout master uniform but now he wants a major Boy Scouts of America sponsor to rethink its funding to the organization.
“It is about the United Way, which claims to have a very strong record of diversity and inclusion, asking the United Way Worldwide to simply tell the Boy Scouts of America that their policy of discrimination is wrong and needs to be changed,” said Bourke.
Bourke drove from his home in Louisville, Ky., to the United Way’s annual staff leadership conference in Indy. He also brought 64,000 signatures he hand-delivered from people who feel the same way he does.
“It is important for them to know that donors like me, and people like the 64,000 signatures want to see the United Way take a stand,” said Bourke.
Bourke said he has nothing against scouting. He has worked with his son’s scout troop for almost six years. Bourke said the Boy Scouts of America’s treatment of gays is unfair, and if more United Way chapters pull their funding maybe the BSA will take notice.
“We are ‘Live United.’ That is our policy at United Way, we are ‘Live United,’ so if we say, ‘Live United except for…’ that does not sit well with us,” said Keri Albright.
Albright is the president of a United Way chapter in the Greater Susquehanna Valley, in Central Pennsylvania. That chapter has temporarily pulled its backing from the Boy Scouts.
“We have people in our community that would never support United Way because of our funding the Boy Scouts,” said Albright.
Bourke said the meeting with United Way leaders will not bring change right away, but he hopes it is a step in what he feels is the right direction.
Bourke was granted permission to go with his former troop on their annual retreat, not as a scout leader, but as a parent. The Central Indiana Chapter of The United Way told Fox59 they donate money to the Boy Scouts for all the work the organization does to help children from urban areas and poor neighborhoods, but they went onto say:
“As a result of their existing national policy, the Boy Scouts receive no funding based on diversity.”
In a statement sent to Fox59 by members of the Boy Scouts’ national office, the BSA said:
“We have previously met with this individual and respect his right to express his opinion. The Boy Scouts of America is committed to dialogue on its membership standards within the Scouting family at the local and national levels. The BSA officers will draft a resolution regarding membership standards which will be considered by the voting members of the National Council at the National Annual Meeting in May 2013,” said Deron Smith, Director of Public Relations for BSA.