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Scout critics offer mixed reviews of new policy

Scoutmaster Geoff McGrath poses for a portrait after a troop meeting at Rainier Beach United Methodist Church in Seattle on March 27, 2014. Peter DiCampo / for NBC News
Scoutmaster Geoff McGrath poses for a portrait after a troop meeting at Rainier Beach United Methodist Church in Seattle on March 27, 2014. Peter DiCampo / for NBC News (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

NBC News – Critics of Boy Scouts of America offered mixed reactions Monday to the organization's decision to lift its decades-old ban on gay adult leaders.

Zach Wahls, the executive director of a group that has advocated to end the ban, Scouts for Equality, called it a "historic" moment that, just a few years ago, seemed a decade away.

"The scouts have been defending this policy since 1978, and for them to decide to walk back the ban — it's a big deal," he told NBC News. "There are so many people who are going to be effected by this decision, it's difficult to overstate."

In a statement, Andrew Lama, an assistant scoutmaster in New Jersey, called on "gay Eagle Scouts" and allies who may have left the Boy Scouts to "rejoin the fold."

"Together, we can build a stronger, more inclusive Scouting movement," he said.

But Wahls also worried about what he called a "political necessity" built into the new policy—the decision to allow the roughly 70 percent of members in the US who are chartered through religious organizations to continue excluding gay adults from hiring.

Wahls suggested this could create a sharply divided organization, while Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said the policy "undermines" the "historic nature" of the decision.

"Discrimination should have no place in the Boy Scouts, period," he said.

Geoff McGrath, a former Boy Scout leader in Seattle whose membership was revoked last April because he is gay, also called this element of the policy "atrocious."

"It's a new discriminatory policy," he told NBC News. "It's not a new non-discriminatory policy."

McGrath recalled receiving a phone call last year in which the caller—he wasn't sure who it was—asked if he was "an open and about homosexual." Shortly after, he letter arrived in the mail that revoked the membership of his unit, which is part of a private non-profit, Chief Seattle Council.

In an interview with NBC News, the council's scout executive, Mike Quirk, said that McGrath is now welcome to reapply.

"His sexuality would not have an impact," he said.