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Maryland

Md. gay teen achieves Eagle Scout rank under gay-inclusive Boy Scouts

Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Pascal Tessier

Luis M. Alvarez, AP
Pascal Tessier, left, a gay Boy Scout, receives his Eagle Scout badge from Troop 52 Scoutmaster Don Beckham, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Chevy Chase, Md. Tessier, of Maryland, has become one of the first openly gay scouts to reach the highest rank of Eagle, following a policy change to allow gay youth in the Boy Scouts of America.

CHEVY CHASE, Md. — Change is coming quickly to the Boy Scouts of America after years of turmoil and debate over its membership policy, with an openly gay 17-year-old in Maryland achieving the highest rank of Eagle Scout.

On Monday night, Boy Scout Troop 52 of Chevy Chase, one of the nation’s oldest, formed a circle and gave Pascal Tessier sustained applause and some handshakes and pats on the back. His achievement comes just weeks after the organization lifted its ban on gay youth and may make him the first publicly gay Eagle approved under the new policy.

Pascal Tessier

Pascal Tessier

Scoutmaster Don Beckham walked to the middle of the Scout circle after a series of announcements about supplies for the next campout and announced the 17-year-old Tessier was officially the troop’s newest Eagle. For Tessier, it represents six years of work, 27 merit badges and projects in service, leadership and outdoor skills. He put all that at risk, though, to advocate publicly against t he Scouts ban on gays.

“A Scout is brave,” Beckham told the troop, quoting from the Boy Scout Law after presenting Tessier his Eagle badge.

“To be a leader, there are going to be situations where you are going to have to stand up for what you believe is right,” Beckham said. “You may be asked to make personal sacrifices, to potentially give up your dreams because you are helping to make something happen that is important for a lot of other people. … And when it’s a principle that you believe in, use your Scout training and stand up for what is right because a Scout is brave.”

Tessier’s mom, Tracie Felker, looked on with other parents and said it was “a new era.” The fight over the Boy Scouts’ membership policy has persisted for decades, including a Supreme Court decision in 2000.

For more than a year, Tessier, who lives in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Kensington, has been one of the most prominent openly gay scouts speaking out to change the Scouts’ longstanding ban. After a vote last year, the organization of 2.5 million youth members officially opened its doors to include all boys, regardless of sexual orientation. A ban on gay adult leaders remains in place.

While there is no official tracking of gay members, Tessier is likely the nation’s first openly gay Eagle approved under the new policy, according to the advocacy group Scouts for Equality.

Tessier’s brother, Lucien Tessier, who also is gay and an Eagle Scout, launched an online petition last year gathering 130,000 signatures on Change.org after a local Scout official said it would be impossible for Pascal Tessier to complete his Eagle rank if he is openly gay.

For Tessier less than a year later, it’s “a huge sigh of relief” to finally have his Eagle badge approved by the Scouts’ national headquarters in Irving, Texas.

“Even if I had been kicked out along the way, I wouldn’t have changed anything,” he said. “The whole experience was something worth having, not only for myself but also for all the other people involved – and for all the people it affects.”

Even though he had a supportive troop with its own all-inclusive policy, Tessier said he wanted to speak out about the Boy Scouts’ national policy after seeing other gay scouts or leaders kicked out or denied the Eagle rank in recent years, including the high profile case of Ryan Andresen, a California teen. Despite the success in changing the Scouts’ policy, Tessier said he plans to continue advocating.

“On my 18th birthday, I’m planning on applying to be an adult leader for the Boy Scouts so that we push the issue,” he said.

Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout who has gay parents and formed the group Scouts for Equality, compared Tessier’s experience with University of Missouri football player Michael Sam, who came out publicly before the NFL draft.

“This is about showing people that you can be honest about who you are and setting that e xample and showing that’s OK,” he said. “That’s what Pascal is doing.”

Since 1912, more than 2 million Scouts have earned the rank of Eagle. About 55,000 boys earn the honor each year.

Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said the organization remains focused on delivering a premiere program focused on character development and values-based leadership. There’s been no mass exodus of members, as some opponents of the policy change predicted last year.

“The BSA has never inquired about the sexual preference of its members, employees or volunteers,” he said. “We believe every child deserves the opportunity to be a part of the Scouting experience.”

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110 more reader comments:

  1. This is a step forward in the right direction.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:47pm
  2. I wuz a boy scouts be 4″

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:47pm
  3. At the moment Boy Scouts find out he’s gay you’ll be removed from Boy Scouts of America

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:48pm
  4. It’s a step, but until the scouts accept all people as they are, it will not be enough.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:48pm
  5. Awesome example of how it should be done! Way to go!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:48pm
  6. boy scouts still is homophobic. a shame.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:49pm
  7. Congratulations, but you can’t be a Scout Leader!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:49pm
  8. Maryland My Maryland!! YaY!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:50pm
  9. Sad that he won’t be able to be a leader

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:50pm
  10. Yay! Pascal Tessier

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:50pm
  11. I’ll applaud them when they include everyone, including atheists.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:51pm
  12. WOOHOO!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:51pm
  13. It’s a huge step
    Many more to go!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:52pm
  14. Its ironic since most of the perv Scout leaders are “straight” and on the down low. Oh well

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:53pm
  15. My thoughts exactly Lisa Sharktopus Harless. My 6 year old is pissed that he can’t join because he refuses to hide his atheism.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:54pm
  16. And not one of the other scouts dropped dead or turned gay! Congrats to the Eagle Scout

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:54pm
  17. Well done!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:54pm
  18. That’s amazing! Congratulations from this gay eagle!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:54pm
  19. Ha, there have been gay scouts forever! Scouts is a safe place where everyone is accepted. I teach my son that everyone is welcome.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 5:56pm
  20. That is great but as soon as he turns 18 he is kicked out.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:01pm
  21. I welcome him to my brotherhood. Now can we get over this? He earned his Eagle the same way I earned my Eagle. No difference. Stop the discrimination.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:04pm
  22. Speaking as an Eagle…it’s about freaking time!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:05pm
  23. You know what? It doesn’t matter if every Boy Scouts are like that. But going against him for being gay? Look what most women who does stupid stuff to men? I think that every Boy Scout in the U.S. should only allow gay kids to go to Boy Scouts and girls scouts too. Yes that’s for kids who should be raised as a gay and lesibian only.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:07pm
  24. What a wonderful young man. Though the Scouts have made strides, I will not be able to support them monetarily until they remove the ban on gay leaders.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:15pm
  25. Huh?
    Its all inclusive gay in this group. Including the leader. I think that’s great for young gay men who need good role models in their lives who might otherwise “feel different.” Also to create networks with other young gays

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:17pm
  26. Great to know. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:18pm
  27. ashame when he turns 18 they will kick him out ;(

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:21pm
  28. happy

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:21pm
  29. Anthony Citro south park had an episode of that actually. I love their messages

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:21pm
  30. Sure took em a long time…

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:25pm
  31. Separate but equal ??

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:26pm
  32. On the right side of the history that is being made in our country on a daily basis.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:30pm
  33. Now if only they’d let transgender people in… and us LGBT+ parents…

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:34pm
  34. Too bad he won’t be allowed to be a leader after this!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:38pm
  35. SEMI-inclusive.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:39pm
  36. Congrats! A great achievement!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:41pm
  37. well deserved!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:41pm
  38. This lessens a bit the pain I felt when I was denied Eagle – after obtaining ALL required merit badges and order of the Arrow. It still hurts, but this gives me hope for future advances which would include gay Scout leaders, who are sorely needed.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:43pm
  39. I had to take my son out of scouts because I do not feel comfortable putting my child in situations or around people who do not accept gays and would condemn his mother

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:44pm
  40. Kurt?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:11am
  41. Congratulations to him.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:13am
  42. I told you all at once the Boy Scouts lost their 401 see charity and we’re no longer considered to be a not-for-profit organization and they had to start paying taxes on their money they turn around and become normal citizens with hearts of gold and integrity

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:13am
  43. The gays and their sashes

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:13am
  44. He DOES look like Kurt

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:13am
  45. that’s so cool

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:13am
  46. You make us proud…keep it up :)

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:14am
  47. Did this in 2009 in Arizona…

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:14am
  48. but once he becomes a legal adult he’ll be considered a pedophile and chased out

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:15am
  49. and you r aiggot so stfu

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:40am
  50. aiggot? Is that some new slur I need to learn to be offended by? lol well what they say about you lot and your education is pretty apropos. ;)

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:41am
  51. Aren't you the ray of sunshine.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:13am
  52. Sadly, this is still the case........DISGUSTING boy scouts!!!

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:35am
  53. Unfortunately your right, it's a shame they can't pull their heads out of their asses sooner rather then later.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 6:48am
  54. times are changing and so are the rules. Soon enough he will be able to be an adult leader.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:27pm
  55. Woooo congratulations young man

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:15am
  56. Yay!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:15am
  57. He does look like Kurt!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:16am
  58. Congrats man you deserve it

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:17am
  59. Bout time congrats

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:17am
  60. I can’t count the number of gay men I have known that have acheived the rank of Eagle Scout.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:17am
  61. My ex was one of the many PROUD gay Eagle Scouts.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:21am
  62. Turn l9 and your out unfortunately. I think that will go away after awhile too. The BScouts need to be inclusionary not exclusion.

    Replied on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:46am
  63. This is great news!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:18am
  64. Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:18am
  65. Congrats.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:19am
  66. yay!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:22am
  67. About time :)

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:22am
  68. Good for him!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:22am
  69. But once he turns 18 he will get kicked out for being gay….hypocrites

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:22am
  70. I am so proud of you..keep the faith! XO

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:24am
  71. They all look gay lol

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:24am
  72. Congrats!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:25am
  73. good I know being a gay teen is hard

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:27am
  74. When did they start wearing a neckerchief with the collar showing? Back in my scouting days; if we wore the collared shirt and a neckerchief, the collar had to be tucked in. That way it matched the old darker colored (more the color of the pants) shirt in appearance.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:28am
  75. Not much of an EAGLE CEREMONY going on there.?.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:29am
  76. Think positive! Like slavery, we moving on up. GLBTQ!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:31am
  77. About time!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:38am
  78. That achieved have got the stop point else …but agree with best thjng

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:39am
  79. PROUD – GO MARYLAND :)

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:39am
  80. This looks like that scene from Up.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:42am
  81. Long over due.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:53am
  82. awesome for the dude !!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:59am
  83. It’s time!!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 3:59am
  84. That kids face in the back though

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:08am
  85. yeah, but one more year and they kick him out, right?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:13am
  86. Congrats. I will always remember my Eagle Court of Honor and the years of joy I found in Boy Scouts. Too bad I cannot share that with other young men. :(

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:17am
  87. Yeah sorry Rex, I’ve been told I can be kind of cynical… I’m working on it. Heh

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:22am
  88. I am so proud of this..I am an Eagle Scout myself and was told I would lose my rank if BSA ever found out… it would be awesome to march in the St . PETERSBURG pride parade in my uniform and finally be able to stand up and completely OUT and PROUD.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:23am
  89. Good.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:32am
  90. About time

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:34am
  91. I don’t know why the Boy Scouts have such a problem with homosexuals. They themselves are gay. Just in a different way.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:39am
  92. Good for him.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:43am
  93. Sad that when he is an adult, he will not be able to be a scout leader because of their antiquated policies.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 4:51am
  94. So proud

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 5:24am
  95. Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 6:00am
  96. There is hope

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 6:03am
  97. Wonderful!’

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 6:05am
  98. Ok. Awesome. Why are they shaking left hands. That’s just stupid. Is it a scout thing or just dumb idiots?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 6:08am
  99. because he is a careing person

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 6:22am
  100. I am a Queens Scout but I wasn’t out when I received it. Congrats to my fellow scout in Maryland USA.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 6:33am
  101. Jess, if I was correctly informed your gay uncle is an Eagle Scout.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 7:00am
  102. Bout time.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 7:27am
  103. steve martin?

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:16am
  104. Don,t get me started on the Leadership of the BSA. Close minded Bibble Hugghers. Congratulations to this young Man.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 9:33am
  105. He is setting the path for others to come out in the Boy Scouts and fight against discrimination.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 10:21am
  106. Too bad they won’t let you be a leader…. great lessons…. *sigh*

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 12:11pm
  107. bel

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 12:25pm
  108. I really don’t understand why it matters if a member is gay. Who he likes has nothing to do with what they even do as an organization.

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 12:34pm
  109. Its about freaking time!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 1:37pm
  110. And not a single scout raped or debauched! :D LOLOLOL!

    Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:01pm