Greg Bourke is a father who was fired recently from his son’s Boy Scout troop. “The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) forced me to step down as assistant scoutmaster of my son’s Boy Scout troop,” he says, “just because I’m gay.” The Louisville, KY, father says that despite his dedication to the Lincoln Heritage Council, he was told he did not meet the membership requirements simply because of his sexual orientation.
“Last week, I received a special Legislative Citation from the State of Kentucky House of Representatives honoring me and my dedication to scouting and service to my community,” he says. He was prompted to go public with his story out of the fear that the BSA leadership is sending the wrong message to his son Isaiah and other young men like him.
“Despite the protest of my troop, my church, and my community, the Boy Scouts’ message was clear: gay youth and parents are inferior, and not welcome,” he says. “That’s an incredibly dangerous message to send to young people in our community. As longtime donors to our local United Way, Michael, my partner of 30 years, and I believe that United Way has a unique opportunity to step up and be a leader here, and to help families like ours.”
So he launched a campaign on Change.org asking the United Way to stop supporting the BSA until they overturn the ban. More than 25,000 people have denounced the decision to fire Bourke, and are asking the United Way to also join the protest.
For reference, local United Way branches fund nearly 300 Boy Scout councils that will be voting on whether or not to end the national anti-gay policy at the scout’s annual meeting in May. And while United Way Worldwide, which serves United Way’s National Professional Council of roughly 50 local United Way CEOs, touts diversity and inclusion on its website, it has yet to denounce the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay youth and families.
“A strong statement from the United Way will absolutely be noticed by millions of Scouts and Scout leaders. After all, many Boy Scout councils rely heavily on local United Way funding, and those local leaders will be the ones voting on this policy in May,” says Bourke, who was both a respected and beloved Boy Scouts leader. Since his removal, he’s received overwhelming support from scouts, scout leaders, scout parents and faith leaders. Bourke has also been a leader in his daughter’s local Girl Scouts troop. The Girl Scouts of America, like many service organizations including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the 4H Club, welcomes gay youth and parents.
“Intel, UPS, Merck and hundreds of other Fortune 500 companies stand united in support of Greg Bourke and his family,” says Zach Wahls, Eagle Scout and founder of Scouts for Equality. “We know that the United Way has no interest in funding discrimination. The time for talk is over. United Way must act.”
With the support of Scouts for Equality and GLAAD, Bourke traveled with gay Scouts and Scout leaders to the Boy Scouts’ National Headquarters in Irving, Texas, last week to deliver 1.4 million Change.org petition signatures urging the Boy Scouts to end its national anti-gay policy.
“A growing majority agree that discrimination is not a merit the Boy Scouts should be teaching our children,” says GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “United Way has a responsibility to its donors to honor the organization’s core values and speak out against the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay ban.”