Eagle Scout takes 1,800-mile stand on Scouts' policy on gays

An Idaho resident and his son are pedaling their way to Texas to make a point.

(Idaho Falls) Post RegisterMay 7, 2013 

As they start their journey, Dave McGrath and his son Joseph lead a group of supporters in front of Idaho Falls High School last week.

MONTE LAORANGE — mlaorange@postregister.com

— IDAHO FALLS - Dave McGrath's passions seem conflicted.

He loves his church: He was raised a devout Mormon.

He loves his Army: During 10 years in the military, he was a Korean linguist, Ranger and Cavalry Scout.

He also loves his six sons, two of whom are gay. And he loves his identical twin brother, Geoff, who also is gay.

That's why he's taking a stand against another love of his, the Boy Scouts of America.

This Eagle Scout has a new Eagle project. He's calling it the Old Scout's Promise.

McGrath, 48, left Idaho Falls Friday on an 18-day, 1,800-mile bicycle ride. He was joined by his son Joseph - recently returned from a one-year Army Reserve deployment in Kuwait, riding in support of his gay brothers.

Their end goal: the Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas.

The two will protest the Boy Scouts' policy on gays, following the organization's January announcement that it would consider removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation and leaving policies to its local organizations.

The National Council is expected to make its decision May 20.

Dave McGrath, an employee at Idaho National Laboratory, is prepared to give up his Eagle Scout badge.

"My promise is to be silent no more," he said.

The Boy Scouts' January announcement sparked his desire to stand up for his family. But the fight began from the trenches of his past, about 25 years ago, when his twin came out.

McGrath had joined the Army and was studying at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, Calif. He got a phone call from Geoff, then a college student in Rexburg, who said: "We need to talk."

They met in Berkeley, Calif., in a friend's crowded study. Geoff asked his brother, "Are you gay?"

Dave was taken aback. "Why no, I'm not," he said.

Dave said Geoff seemed to shrink in on himself: "I thought the whole world was playing a joke on me, and I've just figured it out - I'm gay."

Dave's world view shifted.

This wasn't long after the time of Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay elected officials. He was shot and killed in 1978 by Dan White, a former San Francisco supervisor.

It also was the dawning of the AIDS epidemic. Nobody knew what it was. Everyone was afraid.

Dave found it in his heart to love his brother and, much later, his two sons.

After a quarter-century of quiet support, Dave is taking a public stand.

"It's one thing to have someone love and support you the moment you come out," Geoff said. "It's another for them to be devoted to advocacy. I'm completely touched."

Geoff will show his brother how appreciative he really is when Dave and Joseph reach Salt Lake City.

Geoff, also an Eagle Scout, bought a plane ticket from his Seattle home to Salt Lake City so he can travel with them to Provo.

Dave and Joseph don't know Geoff's plans. They're just doing it to make a statement.

"I definitely believe in the cause, and I think it'll be a great adventure," Joseph said. "If I can help propel (the cause) forward in any way, I will gladly do so."

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