By Mary Slosson
SACRAMENTO (Reuters) - A gay Eagle Scout who says he was fired from his job at a California Boy Scout camp over his sexual orientation delivered a petition on Wednesday with 70,000 signatures asking to be reinstated despite the organization's ban on gay scouts and scout leaders.
Tim Griffin worked at Camp Winton, roughly 80 mileseast of Sacramento, and was the longest-serving employee until he was fired for being gay, activists say. The camp program director and nine others resigned in protest after his dismissal.
The petition, which says 22-year-old Griffin was being treated like a second-class citizen, marks the latest salvo in the U.S. cultural war over equal status for gays and lesbians. It was delivered to the Golden Empire Boy Scouts Council headquarters in the state capital.
"I loved being part of the Boy Scouts, and I'm simply overwhelmed by the love and support the scouting community has given me through this difficult time," Griffin said in a statement.
The Boy Scouts of America said in July it would continue to deny membership to gay scouts and scout leaders after a raucous two-year debate over its controversial policy.
"The Golden Empire Council did not remove this camp staff member because of his sexual orientation or the BSA's membership standards policy," the Boy Scouts of America said in a statement e-mailed to Reuters, without elaborating on the reasons for his dismissal.
This is the third time the Boy Scouts of America have received such a petition, the organization said, adding that it does not "proactively inquire" about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members.
Such a policy was once in line with that of the U.S. military, which in September repealed it's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, under which gay individuals were allowed to serve only if they did not divulge their sexual orientation.
Recent years have seen a shift in U.S. popular sentiment on gay rights. In May, President Barack Obama said he believes same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. Later, the nation's largest civil rights group, the NAACP, endorsed gay marriage, saying the fight for gay rights was a civil rights issue.
"Regardless of what the council gives as reasoning for my removal, the overwhelming show of solidarity at today's delivery tells quite a different story," Griffin said.
The petition said Griffin was fired as a result of his sexual orientation, although the technical reason given was that he violated the camp's dress code.
The July decision to uphold the Boy Scouts of America policy banning openly gay members was the result of a two-year evaluation by the organization prompted by repeated rancor over the policy, with celebrities, CEOs and activists weighing in.
The group said the policy would protect the rights of families that prefer to address issues of sexuality in private.
The Boy Scouts of America won a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2000 allowing it to ban gays whose conduct, the Boy Scouts argued, violated its values.
The Boy Scouts of America claimed more than 1 million adult volunteers at the end of 2011. It was founded in 1910 as part of an international movement established in Britain by Robert Baden-Powell.
The Boy Scouts of America is just one of several organizations that have become a public battleground on the issue. Sandwich chain Chick-fil-A, for example, became a flashpoint for debate this summer after the company president said he opposed same-sex unions.
(Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)