This man's dedication to the Boy Scouts shows just how ridiculous their ban on gay leaders is.

It doesn't take a genius to see how cruel it is to have someone spend all their time serving a group that has no plans to love them back.

Hardworking. Honest. Helpful. Respectful.

These are just a few of the many characteristics people associate with being a Boy Scout.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

As one of the country's biggest youth organizations, the Boy Scouts of America is a household name that holds a lot of significance for young boys and men. For many, it isn't just an American pastime; it's a rite of passage.

So what happens when you realize a group that is seemingly integral to your identity growing up doesn't accept you for who you are?

Liam has been a Boy Scout since age 11. He's also gay.

Despite having a rough start with scouting (during his first camping trip with his brother, he cried — but at least now he looks back on that moment and laughs), he loved being a part of his troop.

About a year later, Liam started to come out to his classmates at school as gay, but he hesitated to come out to his troop because he knew how homophobic the Boy Scouts organization was.

Liam almost didn't get to reach his goal of joining the top ranks of the scouts.

Despite the Boy Scouts' policy, Liam chose not to hide his sexual orientation. With his officially becoming an Eagle Scout on the line, he agreed to be interviewed for his high school newspaper about his experience as a gay scout, even though leadership warned him that he might get kicked out for it and lose his chance.

He did the interview anyway.

Luckily, Liam was able to become an Eagle Scout. But the fight for acceptance of gay folks in the organization is not over.

Geoff McGrath had his scout membership revoked for being gay. GIF from "Clipped Wings."

That means dedicated scouts like Liam are banned from giving back to the Boy Scouts as adult volunteers just for being gay. What kind of message is the Boy Scouts sending to young men if they're suddenly unacceptable the second they turn 18?

It looks like the bravery of people like Liam is having an impact. The Boy Scouts' president called for the ban on gay leaders to be lifted. Here's hoping that soon we'll see the organization's board vote to allow amazing individuals to be members — regardless of their sexual orientation.

Watch the entire documentary "Clipped Wings" to learn more about the fight against homophobia in the Boy Scouts:

Show Transcript Hide Transcript

My brother and I joined scouting when we were 11 years old. We went on our first camping trip and cried. Rain got into our tent and we didn't...we forgot our rain fly and we spent a few hours trying to mop out the wet tent. We were brought to tears at 11 years old. So that was a great, great memory. I can laugh at that now.

Kids benefit from scouts in that they are able to experience things, new things for the first time, things that they wouldn't have otherwise be able to do. Self-esteem is something that we want in kids, but it's not something that can be handed to them. It's something that they actually have to go out and earn. Self-esteem is the by-product of hard work well executed. These kids in the scouting program - that's what they have a chance to do.

The process of getting Eagle requires a lot of leadership within the troop. I definitely decided that I was going to dig my heels in and go for it.

Liam was my patrol leader when I first joined Boy Scouts. He really got me into light camping. He's just one of the best patrol leaders.

Probably 12 years old, I started figuring it out definitely and thought, "Hey, I now know what gay means, and that seems kind of like what I am." I decided to come out to my school. After I came out, I definitely thought about some of the repercussions in scouting. I was aware that it was a little homophobic.

If you were gay and it was known to your troop, you could be ejected from your troop for no other reason. Basically, if you're gay, you're out.

If a youth wanted to come out, so to speak, who was a boy scout, a lot of it would depend upon the unit that he's currently entered in. Some troops may not be friendly to gays. There might be persecution there.

It felt really bad being...knowing that I wasn't accepted by the organization as a whole. It definitely led me to question the difference between being an Eagle scout and being a gay scout.

This generation has gay friends. It's not a problem for them. It's been embarrassing for those youth to be participating in a program that discriminates so blatantly.

There was newspaper article in my high school's newspaper discussing what the gay scout policy was currently. The head editor wanted me to put an interview explaining what it was like to be a gay scout. Danny Lange, the editor, the boy scout that I knew, called me and said that he had just talked to the Chairman of the Chief Seattle District and that that person had said that if they found out who I was and that I was being published in an article and they knew that I was gay, that I would not be eligible for the Eagle rank. That was when I truly recognized that I could lose it all.

We had a long conversation on the phone. I definitely wanted to be open and honest about my sexuality, about me being gay, but at the same time, I felt like I already was an Eagle. I had completed all the requirements. All I needed to go was go prove that to these people in my Board of Review. So I decided that I would totally speak out against the Boy Scouts' policy, and that's what I did. The article went to print the next day.

Up until the end of 2012, I was the Advancement Chair for the Eagle District. I did conduct the Board of Review for Liam. The article that came out on Liam is one that I saw before the Board of Review.

It was a long Board of Review. I think it was an hour. They sat me down on a room and started prying as to what Boy Scouts meant to me. They didn't ask any questions about me being gay. They did ask me what I would change about the Boy Scouts if I could, and I said they should definitely allow gay scouts.

The questions that were asked Liam in the board were questions that I'd always ask other scouts. There was no mention of being gay or anything like that. There was nothing that he didn't do that he would expect from anyone seeking the Eagle rank and that. So I would have to say if someone else didn't sign him off, in that case, to me it would be a clear sign of being prejudiced. Possibly, that is a situation that some of the other districts or councils have.

After my Eagle Board of Review, it felt like a huge success, probably one of the biggest successes I'll make in my life. It was a lot of work - six years of work.

In recognition of successful completion of all requirements for scouting's highest rank, congratulations to both of you.

Congratulations. Good job. Proud of you.

The North Texas-based Boy Scouts of America finally came to a decision on where to draw the line on its gay ban. Gay scouts can stay.


Within our move - and everyone agrees - one thing: No matter how you feel about this issue, kids are better off in scouting.

When I was a child as a Cub Scout and then as a Boy Scout, people would ask me what it is I wanted to be when I grew up. Invariably, my answer was to be a Scout Master. So I would say I decided to be a Scout Master probably when I was - I don't know - 11 or 12, when I first entered the program.

Last summer, Geoffrey, who's now our Scout Master and also a member of our church, came to me and another minister in the neighborhood and said, "Hey, we need to do something for our underprivileged kids."

The chance this year to actually live that childhood dream to be the Scout Master of this troop, to help these kids figure what scouting is all about and learn the Scout oath and promise just like I did has meant the world to me. On Monday, I received a phone call from someone representing themselves as an attorney for the Boy Scouts of America. He called asking the question, "Are you an open and avowed homosexual?" I said, "Sir, that's an insulting question. But if you're asking if I'm a gay man, the answer is yes." That's when he told me that I should expect to receive formal notice that my membership would be revoked in the Boy Scouts of America. So the current position of the Boy Scouts of America is that you cannot be an adult volunteer and be gay, which sends a terrible message to the gay youth that participate in the program, that they have no hope of being a volunteer when they achieve the age of 18.

Geoff McGrath was really looking to change the Boy Scouts from the inside, not scolding from the outside, but really showing people that gay leaders will run a troop, and the troop will work out fine. But he got shot down and there was a huge protest, which was awesome to see. He was on a lot of front pages. He's a really, really inspiring figure.

Something that is very important to me is religious freedom. We are a church that practices an open door policy for everybody. Love - all means all at our church. When I signed the paperwork that said that the Boy Scouts would honor our religious beliefs and our religious tenets, I really believed they were going to honor our religious beliefs and our religious tenets. That seems not be the case when it doesn't agree with them.

The religious influence in Scouting is significant.

There's been a long, long, long relationship between the Mormon Church and Boy Scouting. In fact, it's considered an official part of their youth ministry.

About 75% of all Scouting units are church-sponsored, and the largest number of sponsoring churches in the U.S. is the Mormons. They don't actually support and defend their gay membership, not in any sort of discernible way. The end result, though, of that combination is it means that the Scouts are quite conservative - more conservative than the rest of the nation.

Being a Scout for me developed into a sense of knowing what was right and wrong. To think that this organization that stands up for leadership and for friendship and loyalty was betraying some of their members, it's not what the Boy Scouts mean. It's only been here for 30 years.

I do not think Scouting is a good environment for gay youth. I think it's a dangerous environment for gay youth. It can become a good environment for gay youth, but it is not that. Not now. Not today. It can be, but it does require changes - real changes.

I achieved their highest rank and I put so much time and effort into the Boy Scouts. It seems really, really unfair that I'm going to be just signed off. The second I turn 18, I'm done. It would be very painful to see my brother move on with his kids. If he was able to do that and I was not - I would not be able to - it would seem really, really unfair.

Those are two kids that I think Scouts should really be proud of. The thing that is so crazy is that one is going to be able to go on in Scouting and the other one is out.

We really need to go back to what Scouting actually means. It means being kind and accepting and learning and teaching. The next step that the Boy Scouts need to make and the one that I'm pushing for is definitely to let me be allowed into the Boy Scouts before my kids are eligible to join. That's where they need to go next. We're going to be pushing them all the way. They're going to take a lot of heat for this.

Our little story represents the ark of the country. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, you will no longer hide. You are part of mainstream America. What is more mainstream America than the Boy Scouts?

Who will you be delivering them to?

I'll make sure the appropriate people get it.

Thank you for taking this.

You're welcome.

This is really important.

I understand.

This one is an important one to fight for because it symbolizes access and civil rights and human rights for every part of our country. When we say all means all, we mean all means all.

There may be small errors in this transcript.

Much thanks to Leo Pfeifer, one of the producers of the "Clipped Wings" documentary, for sharing it with me. It was shot before the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on gay scouts (which happened only recently). But not everyone's gathering around the campfire just yet — gay Scout leaders are still not allowed in the BSA. To learn more about efforts to change that, check out Scouts for Equality.

Jul 09, 2015

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