Gay Rights
5:00 am
Wed May 14, 2014

Gay Eagle Scout Behind Petition Urging Amazon To Drop Support Of Boy Scouts

More than 90,000 people have signed a petition asking Amazon to drop its charitable support of Boy Scouts of America. The move comes after the national organization of the Boy Scouts last month fired Geoffrey McGrath, a gay Seattle Scoutmaster. 

Amazon has a program called AmazonSmile that will donate 0.5 percent of your purchase price to a charitable group of your choice. Boy Scouts of America is among the almost one million groups you can choose.

But now a 17-year-old Eagle Scout in Maryland named Pascal Tessier, who has come out as gay, is leading a petition to urge Amazon to drop the Boy Scouts as an option. Tessier, who says his family frequently shops on Amazon, says he was surprised the company was supporting a group that prohibits openly-gay adults from being members.

“To me, it was a very big shock. I thought Amazon was all about progressive thinking and all this, yet they’re over here, supporting the opposite,” he said.

On his petition page on Change.org, Tessier wrote, “Discrimination is nothing to smile about.”

On the AmazonSmile website, the company says organizations that engage in or promote intolerance are not eligible. Amazon spokesman Ty Rogers says the company relies on lists from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control to figure out which groups are eligible.

Tessier says Amazon needs to do more, and supporting the national scouting organization doesn’t fit the company’s image. He plans to present his petition at a press conference in Seattle next week.

Amazon gets high marks from the group Human Rights Campaign, which monitors companies' progress on achieving equality for gay, lesbian and transgendered people, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos gave $2.5 million to support the same-sex marriage referendum in Washington state two years ago.

Policy Change

Last year, Boy Scouts of America changed its policy to allow gay youth under the age of 18 to be members. But the organization maintained its policy against membership for adults who are openly gay. McGrath decided to start a troop here in Seattle that would not only be welcoming to gay youth but also gay adults.  

"We figured why wait for the policy to change, why don’t we see if Chief Seattle Council is ready to accept a fully inclusive troop already?" McGrath said. 

Chief Seattle Council is the local body overseeing scout troops. McGrath says the council knew he was gay and was fine with him starting a troop last fall at Rainier Beach United Methodist Church. But then when NBC News came to do a story about his troop being inclusive to all, regardless of sexual orientation, and checked back with the national Boy Scouts of America for their response, McGrath got a call. 

"Some gentleman from BSA called me and asked me on the phone if I was an open and avowed homosexual, at which point I said that was a rude question and I wouldn't answer it, but if he was asking if I was gay, the answer was yes," McGrath said. 

McGrath says he was then told the organization was revoking his membership. BSA also told the church it could no longer be a chartered organization because it wasn't complying with the scouting group's policies. 

In an emailed statement, BSA spokesman Deron Smith said the organization doesn't proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of 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," Smith said in the statement. "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."

He said BSA has identified a different chartered organization for the troop and the pack and will notify the parents soon. A spokeswoman for Chief Seattle Council referred all questions to the national organization. 

McGrath and others plan to protest on Thursday at a meeting of the Chief Seattle Council at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel.