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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

April 23, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Lawmakers decry Seattle Boy Scouts’ action against gay leader

WASHINGTON — Four Democratic members of Congress have expressed concern over  Seattle Boy Scouts of America’s recent decision to kick out a church for hosting a troop led by an openly gay scoutmaster.

In identical letters sent last week to Rob McKenna, president of the Boy Scouts’ Chief Seattle Council, and Robert Gates, the incoming president of Boy Scouts of America, the lawmakers said the decision to revoke the charter for Rainier Beach United Methodist Church “goes against (Boy Scouts) values of mutual respect and inclusion.”

The letter was written by Rep. Adam Smith of Bellevue. Three Democrats whose districts include the areas covered by the scouts’ Chief Seattle Council office also signed: Reps. Jim McDermott of Seattle, Rick Larsen of Everett and Suzan DelBene of Medina.

The Seattle Council yanked the charter for the church, which hosts Troop 98, after it refused to dismiss gay scoutmaster Geoff McGrath. The Boy Scouts said the church violated the terms of its charter.

McKenna, a Repubican, is a former Washington State Attorney General who lost the race for governor against Democrat Jay Inslee in 2012. During that campaign, McKenna said he disagreed with the Boy Scouts’ recent affirmation of its policy to exclude gay members.

The following year, in May 2013, the Boy Scouts voted to lift the ban on gay boys and teens.  But the prohibition on gay scout leaders stands.

Smith is the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. He has been a strong supporter of gay rights. He pushed to extend benefits to same-sex couples in the military before the Pentagon took that move last September and challenged refusal by some National Guard units to issue identification cards to gay and lesbian military spouses.

Comments | More in Congress | Topics: Adam Smith, Boy Scouts, Rob McKenna

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