But unlike the other parents in her neighborhood, Steele is a lesbian—a fact that got her bounced from son Jackson’s troop in June after an assistant scoutmaster ratted her out to the national Boy Scouts of America council.
By all accounts, Steele’s involvement in Jackson’s scouting activities was exemplary: His troop earned numerous badges and won the prestigious Blue and Gold Award five years in a row.
Steele has been in a domestic partnership with Jackie Funk for the past 19 years—raising Jackson, sister Jaden, 9, and Steele’s nephew, Will, 10. According to the Louden Times, Steele’s sexuality was a non-issue among troop parents:
“Some of the guys would come down and ask her advice,” Funk said. “Being a woman, forget about the gay part, it didn’t matter. They respected her for her commitment and what she offered and how much she put into it. They respected her.”
Enter assistant scoutmaster James “Skip” Inabinett. (You gotta wonder about a grown man named “Skip.) Seeing Funk pick Steele up from a camping trip one Monday, Inabinett began questioning other parents about their relationship and then suggested Steele should be removed as an assistant scoutmaster.
In an email that Inabinett sent to a close personal friend of Steele’s and whose son was also in the troop, he stated, “If what you said about Denise Steele being an active sexual is true, do you feel comfortable talking with her about stepping down/resigning as an ASM … as her friend, this may be an opportunity for you to share with her about Christ’s love and the need to believe that as sinners we cannot get to heaven on our own and that we need a savior.”
The situation escalated over the next several weeks, with Inabinett declaring Steele’s lifestyle choice a sin. Eventually, Inabinett went directly to the national organization—bypassing the troop scoutmaster and local and district committees—to have Steele ousted.
“He went straight to the highest level because that’s where he would get his answer. He went to the highest point to get me removed,” Steele said.
As it stands now, there is no recourse or appeals process for Steele, save perhaps the court of public opinion. Though you gotta wonder why her fellow troop parents let Steele twist in the wind like that.
For its part, the Boy Scouts of America doesn’t see anything wrong with getting rid of a terrific scoutmaster simply for the gender of her spouse. So long as, y’know, they’re nice about it:
“The [Boy Scouts of America] recognizes that some do not agree with its position on this issue, but values the freedom of everyone to express their opinion and teaches its members to use courtesy and respect at all times,” [spokesperson Deron] Smith said in an email. “To disagree does not mean to disrespect. The [Boy Scouts of America] will continue to strengthen common interests, while respecting differences and will focus on its mission and on reaching as many youth as possible in order to help them grow into good, strong citizens.”
Good citizens who realize that basic human rights are not a matter to be debated, no matter how politely? Not so long as its outdated and homophobic policy is still in place.
Source: Louden Times