Although I was born in Mississippi, we left when I was about six months old, and I grew up in Sacramento, California, so I feel a strong bond with my home town, which makes this story all the more special.
This week, responding to the continued homophobia, discrimination, and bigotry of the Boy Scouts of America [BSA], 10 members of a Sacramento area summer camp staff walked out after Tim Griffin, a gay staff member, was fired.
Naturally, the BSA is denying that Griffin was fired for being gay. Their “official” story is that he was let go because he failed to heed repeated requests to dress appropriately for camp.
Oh, Tim had painted his fingernails and wore an earring.
How, um, gay?
But one Senior official also said there were complaints about his mannerisms and behavior.
You know, gay mannerisms, I guess.
Griffin, a 22-year-old Eagle Scout, believes he was fired for being gay: "I definitely think that the reaffirmation of the anti-gay policy played a role in my termination."
But his wasn’t the only vacancy at camp. After that week’s campers left, 10 members of the 30 member staff resigned in support of Griffin. And, while decision to fire Griffin came from the Golden Empire Council—program director, Glen Goddard said, "What it came down to was his failure to comply with management regarding a uniform issue. We gave him plenty of warnings"—those fellow staffers all say Griffin was fired simply because he was gay.
"It was absolutely about his sexual orientation, no question about it," said Graham Littlejohn, an Eagle Scout and the third-ranking staff member at camp until he joined Saturday's walkout.
Griffin is considering his legal options, but he may not find any help in California's anti-discrimination statutes because a 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision found that the BSA was able to successfully argue that their anti-gay stance is an essential part of the membership; the BSA also bans atheists and agnostics.
Griffin said most people at the camp have known for years that he is gay, and it only became an issue this summer when an adult leader him aside to tell him he was being too gay.
Too gay. Oh, yeah. The nail polish, cuz nail polish is gay.
At first, Griffin said camp director Joel Adema had stood up for him, but over the summer Adema also asked him to stop wearing the nail polish. Right after that request, more than half the staff, male and female, joined Griffin in wearing nail polish in a display of solidarity.
But visiting adult leaders followed up with complaints to Sacramento-based Scouting leaders, and Scout Executive Jim Martin said the council received four separate complaints. The tension over the firing of Griffin–the longest tenured staff member–peaked at a Friday night campfire when the camp program director gave a speech ablaut tolerance. He resigned the following morning over Griffin’s firing.
Griffin admits that he knew when he first joined the Scouts that he was gay, and he knew of their anti-gay policies. But, he said, counselors at summer camp had a different message: “The thing that really kept me going was Camp Winton. It was full of enthusiastic role models … the staff taught me it was OK to be who I was."
It’s a shame that those in power at the BSA don’t get that message.