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Gay Scout Leader Petitions United Way

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Former Assistant Scoutmaster Greg Bourke speaks with reporters about his experience of being fired for being gay.  He and his partner have been together for 31 years, and he was his son's Scoutmaster for five years until last August when he was asked to step down for being gay. - MARK A. LEE
  • Mark A. Lee
  • Former Assistant Scoutmaster Greg Bourke speaks with reporters about his experience of being fired for being gay. He and his partner have been together for 31 years, and he was his son's Scoutmaster for five years until last August when he was asked to step down for being gay.


An original draft of this story mistakenly reported the attendees at Bourke's meeting with United Way. In fact, Joe Tolan, President of the Metro United Way of Louisville, was in attendance, not John Lechleiter.

Like any good Boy Scout, Greg Bourke arrived in Indianapolis this week prepared.

In this case, the former Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 325 in Louisville, Ky., came equipped with a petition for the United Way, which is hosting an national staff leaders' conference in Indy this week.

The petition's more than 64,000 signatures attest to the amount of support for witholding funds from groups that discrimination against gays and lesbians.

"If the BSA won't end their national ban on gay Scouts and leaders, then the United Way should make sure that none of its chapters continue to fund anti-gay discrimination," the petition reads.

The Boy Scouts of America forced Bourke, an assistant scoutmaster of his son's troop for five years, to step down last August after he came out to Scout leaders.

Bourke and his 30-year partner, Michael De Leon, are members of the United Way's Tocqueville donor society for members that contribute at least $10,000 per year. The petition is an effort to encourage the organization to advocate that its policy of embracing "diversity and inclusion" would be considered when leaders make local funding decisions.

Bourke met Wednesday afternoon with United Way Worldwide President Stacey Stewart and Joe Tolan, President of the Metro United Way of Louisville, to present them with a petition to denounce the Boy Scouts of America's discrimination of gays and lesbians. (Lilly is part of United Way's Global Corporate Leadership Team.)

Bourke said he and his partner tried to talk their son out of joining the Boy Scouts when he started asking about it in the first grade, but they finally relented when he asked again in second grade. Bourke then went through all of the necessary training to become the leader of his son's troup, including, but not limited to, numerous background checks. He was considered by many to be a model Scout Leader. Shortly after he was asked to step down, he received a special "Legislative Citation" from the State of Kentucky House of Representatives honoring him and his dedication to Scouting and service to his community.

Keri Albright of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way in Central Pennsylvania joined the press conference. Her chapter is among a few that have place discretionary funding for the local council of Boy Scouts of America on "pause" while the national Boy Scouts of America organization reviews its policy of "not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals." - MARK A. LEE
  • Mark A. Lee
  • Keri Albright of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way in Central Pennsylvania joined the press conference. Her chapter is among a few that have place discretionary funding for the local council of Boy Scouts of America on "pause" while the national Boy Scouts of America organization reviews its policy of "not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals."
Keri Albright of the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way in Central Pennsylvania joined Bourke at the news conference. This particular United Way is among a few that have place discretionary funding for the local council of Boy Scouts of America on "pause" while the national Boy Scouts of America organization reviews its policy of "not granting membership to open or avowed homosexuals." Speaking on behalf of her 10 years with the United Way, Albright said, "We're LIVE UNITED... It doesn't sit well to say 'We're Live United in our fight against discrimination, except for when it comes to this group.'"

Bourke's meeting with Stewart and Lechleiter was private. But he said afterwards that they listened to what he had to say, and according to him, even though they're not willing to make a statement at this time, they "indicated that they would re-enforce their inclusion and diversity policy... but they stopped short of saying the Boy Scouts need to do the same."

Funding for the United Way happens on the local level, so it is up to each individual agency to determine how to enforce the inclusion policy - and up to local communities to ask that high standards of non-discrimination be enforced.

The group's official policy on the Boy Scouts is as follows:

United Way Worldwide, the leadership organization for the almost 1,800 member United Ways in 40 countries around the globe, does not dictate policy or funding decisions to its member organizations, except to the extent that funding decisions must be consistent with applicable law. As such, the responses to the 2000 Supreme Court's ruling on the Boy Scouts by these volunteer-driven local United Way organizations have been and will continue to be decided community by community, with each United Way community assessing its own needs and setting its own funding priorities.

After his press conference, Mr. Bourke walked across the street with a petition that has over 65,000 signatures, asking the United Way Worldwide organization to denounce the Boy Scout's anti-gay policy. - MARK A. LEE
  • Mark A. Lee
  • After his press conference, Mr. Bourke walked across the street with a petition that has over 65,000 signatures, asking the United Way Worldwide organization to denounce the Boy Scout's anti-gay policy.

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