SALT LAKE CITY – Thousands of people descended on Salt Lake City Sunday for the annual Gay Pride Parade, and this year’s parade was a little different as it comes on the heels of a major change to the Boy Scouts of America’s policy on openly gay members.
This year’s pride parade saw a first as about a dozen Boy Scouts marched while wearing their uniforms in support of gay rights. Former scout master Dave McGrath was at the parade, and he spoke about his decision to participate.
“Scouts have a duty to this nation,” he said. “My duty is clear. I stand with all Americans, some of us are gay.”
McGrath said most of the scouts who were in the parade are part of the Great Salt Lake Council. McGrath said he and others received letters from the council that said they couldn’t wear their uniforms in the parade. He said the letter indicated the council felt scouting shouldn’t be used to make political statements.
McGrath said that didn’t deter some of those who came and marched today, and he said they know what could happen as a result.
“There are members here of the Great Salt Lake Council that are in uniform participating today and are at risk of losing their membership,” he said.
Scoutmaster Peter Brownstein was at the parade, but he wasn’t in uniform.
“I was essentially intimidated and told not to wear my BSA uniform,” he said. “I am unfortunately not in my uniform, but I am glad others chose to do so.”
Fox 13 obtained the letter mentioned by McGrath via email. In the message, Rick Barnes, an executive with the Great Salt Lake Council, wrote: “Having uniformed scouts and scouters in the Gay Pride Parade this weekend is not acceptable and not allowed.”
The national organization of the Boy Scouts America issued a statement as well.
“These individuals stated a personal opinion and do not represent scouting. Scouting teaches young people that often in life one finds rules they don’t agree with, but a scout is to be obedient.”
Fox 13 reached out the Great Salt Lake Council, and officials with the organization said the scouts who participated in Sunday’s parade will not be kicked out of the scouting program
The parade’s grand marshal was David Testo, who is the first professional soccer player in North America to be openly gay, he came out in 2011.
Testo, who played soccer in Montreal, is now retired. He said his life has changed since coming out.
“It’s definitely changed for the better,” he said. “I think I’ve been able to affect some people’s lives in a positive way, and I think the movement is growing now.”
For more information about the Utah Pride Festival, visit their website.