The Boy Scouts of America ban on gay members and troop leaders is hitting home.
As the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints puts forth support for a proposal to lift a ban on gay scouts under age 18, two Idaho Falls army heroes are joining the battle, in a war that’s personal.
The fight they’ll take to the Boy Scouts of America will take them to an unlikely battlefield — from the Grand Teton Council in Idaho Falls to BSA headquarters in Irving, Texas — all on the back of their bicycles.
Army Spc. Joe McGrath knows the road of life is lined with many battles. But day-to-day wars rarely look like a war zone.
On April 15, McGrath came home to Idaho Falls after a year-long deployment in Kuwait.
His dad, Dave McGrath, is no stranger to battle either — he’s a former intelligence officer — an Army Airborne Ranger.
“In Gulf War I, I was a Korean linguist,” recalled the senior McGrath.
These two warriors are home now, in Idaho Falls together. Now, father and son are about to fight one of those wars that don’t look like war.
“I have six sons, two of whom are gay,” said Dave McGrath. “I have an identical twin brother who is an Eagle Scout, and he’s gay.”
Thinking about his family, a typically talkative Dave McGrath edges on with a quieter tone.
“I love the Boy Scouts,” he said. “I wish them all the best, and yet they discriminate against people I love.”
Dave McGrath is a lifetime scout — but right now the honor weighs heavy on his shoulders
He knows not everybody can be one.
“Some of us have gay people that we love,” he said.
Dave McGrath said it’s hard to ignore the Boy Scouts discriminate against people like his brother and his sons.
Even if the organization adopts a recent proposal to allow gay scouts, Dave McGrath said there will still be discriminination against gay parents.
“Typically in Boy Scouts, the parents are involved,” he said.
Something had to be done.
“It dawned on me, the thing to do was to write my 95 objections to their stupid policy and pin it on Boy Scout headquarters door,” he said.
It’s a battle he’ll fight with his son, Spc. Joe McGrath, by his side.
“There’s people out there who aren’t given the chance to go to Boy Scouts, or, you know, it’s something they love and all of a sudden they’re getting kicked out,” said Spc. McGrath.
The fight is on, but the battlefield will look very unlike the one the McGraths are used to seeing.
“I thought, ‘I got a bike. I’ll bike there,” said Dave McGrath.
So, onboard carbon fiber tanks, in aerodynamic armor, the warriors will make the entire trip to Boy Scout headquarters on the back of their bikes — 1,800 miles to Texas.
Together, they’ll ride from Idaho Falls, to Salt Lake City, through Colorado and eventually to Irving, Texas — home of the Boy Scouts Association.
“This is a movement that really needs to be done,” said Spc. McGrath. “I’m a big believer in equal rights and equality.”
For the soldiers, this story is one about a war: a war with no blood, but many casualties.
“It’s values everybody should have — respect,” said Spc. McGrath. “When you discriminate like this you’re taking that completely out.”
The McGraths will begin their epic journey at the end of next week, and you can help send them off.
They will launch their ride to Texas at Bill’s Bike Shop at Snake River Landing at 8 a.m. on Friday, May 3.
From there, it’s on to Idaho Falls High School, the Grand Teton Council, and eventually the open road.
Dave McGrath will keep an online journal during the trip. You can find it, here: https://www.facebook.com/oldscoutspromise