NEW YORK — The Boy Scouts‘ New York chapter said Thursday that it has hired the nation’s first openly gay Eagle Scout as a summer camp leader, a direct and public challenge to the national scouting organization’s ban on openly gay adult members.
The Boy Scouts’ national spokesman, Deron Smith, said there was no change in that policy, which has been highly divisive. As for any further response to the New York announcement, Smith said, “We are looking into the matter.”
The challenge to the national headquarters was laid down by the Boy Scouts’ Greater New York Councils, which announced the hiring of Pascal Tessier, an 18-year-old Eagle Scout. Tessier has been a vocal advocate of opening the 105-year-old organization to gay scouts and leaders.
“We received this application from this young man, and we found him highly qualified on all the merits,” board member Richard G. Mason said by phone. The New York group, like some other local scouting councils, has said before that it is open to gay employees.
“We have an anti-discrimination policy, we believe in it very firmly, and we are executing on it,” Mason said.
The national organization changed its policy in 2013 to allow openly gay youth as scouts, but not adults as leaders, after a bitter debate over its membership policy. The change took effect in January 2014.
Article continues belowAhead of Thursday’s announcement, Tessier has been getting legal advice from prominent lawyer David Boies, whose recent causes include arguing for recognition of same-sex marriage.
Boise said it was possible that Tessier’s hiring could lead to litigation between the New York chapter and the BSA‘s national headquarters, but he expressed hope this could be avoided.
“We all started this with the idea that the best resolution of this was a resolution based on conciliation and agreement,” Boies said.
“It is certainly a remarkable development because we now have the first openly gay scout leader employed by the Boy Scouts,” he added. “We hope that is the beginning of the end, if you will, of the policy nationwide.”
However, national BSA leaders, after wrestling with the membership policy in 2012 and 2013, have conveyed no interest in reopening the discussions.