Photo credit: LGBTQ Nation
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Boy Scouts of America officials in California have fired an openly gay man from his job as a merit badge instructor, claiming that he failed to adhere to uniform requirements and standards for appropriate dress for the summer camp, Camp Winton, located in Amador County.
Timothy Griffin, a 22-year-old Eagle Scout and an eight-year veteran of camp’s seasonal staff said he was crushed by the firing, and that he thinks “the reaffirmation” of the Boy Scouts policy against gay scouts “played a role in my termination.”
Ten members of the camp’s staff of 30 walked out in support of Griffin, saying the decision to fire him was entirely about his being gay, reported the Sacramento Bee.
“It was absolutely about his sexual orientation, no question about it,” said Graham Littlejohn, an Eagle Scout and the third-ranking staff member at the camp.
A senior scouting official from the Boy Scouts’ Sacramento-based Golden Empire Council, (which serves Scouts from Redding to Sacramento and runs two summer camps, including Camp Winton) speaking on condition of anonymity, told LGBTQ Nation that at issue were Griffin’s “painted fingernails and earrings,” and added that “there were also complaints about his mannerisms and behavior.”
Glen Goddard, program director for the Golden Empire Council disputed the assertion that Griffin’s sexual orientation played a role in the council’s decision.
“What it came down to was his failure to comply with management regarding a uniform issue. We gave him plenty of warnings,” Goddard said.
According to Griffin, the majority of staff at the camp knew about his sexual orientation and it only came to a flash point of contention after a visiting adult leader who had accompanied a group of Scouts to camp for a week pulled him aside to tell him “he was being too gay.”
He said he was proud of camp director Joel Adema, who stood up for him, but over the next few weeks Adema asked him to stop wearing the nail polish – which he said started as a quirky tradition years ago.
More than half the staff, male and female, joined Griffin in wearing nail polish, said Kayla Doria, who resigned her post as camp nature director after Griffin’s dismissal.
Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, an LGBT advocate who was raised by same-sex parents and is now co-founder of Scouts for Equality, told LGBTQ Nation on Wednesday, “I suspect this is only the beginning. The longer the BSA drags out what we all know is an inevitable end to this policy, the more collateral damage–like this episode–they will incur along the way.”
California law prohibits firing a person for their sexual orientation or gender identity, although in 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, found that state laws are not necessarily applicable to private organizations like the Boy Scouts.
Courtney Joslin, a professor of constitutional law at the University of California’s UC Davis Law School — who had co-authored an amicus brief that was filed in the litigation challenging Proposition 8 — remarked, “It appears that the Boy Scouts can fire someone because they appear to be gay.”
The ban on gay scouts and gay and lesbian scout leaders echoes the “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” policy of the U.S. Armed Forces which was repealed last year. The BSA doesn’t inquire about the sexual orientation of its employees, volunteers or scouts, but denies membership to openly gay or lesbian individuals.
Griffin said that for him the worst part was the message BSA had for him with his termination. “They told me in a very harsh way that I don’t embody the true Scouting spirit,” he said.
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