NEW YORK (AP) — The Boy Scouts’ New York chapter said Thursday that it has hired the nation’s first openly gay Eagle Scout as an employee, which is in public contrast to the national scouting organization’s ban on openly gay adult members.
The Boy Scouts’ Greater New York Councils said they have hired Pascal Tessier, an 18-year-old Eagle Scout who has been a vocal advocate of opening the 105-year-old organization to gay scouts and leaders.
Board member Richard G. Mason said the councils see Tessier as “an exemplary candidate for employment as a camp leader.”
“We welcome him,” Mason said in a statement.
The Boy Scouts of America didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry about the hire. The national organization changed its policy in 2013 to allow openly gay kids as scouts, but not adults as leaders, after a bitter debate over its membership policy. The change took effect in January 2014.
Liberal Scout leaders and gay rights groups celebrated the shift at the time but called for allowing gay adults to participate, too. Conservatives involved with the Scouts, including some churches that sponsor Scout units, decried letting any gays — including kids — participate, and some threatened to defect if the ban were lifted.
The Boy Scouts of America has said it doesn’t “proactively inquire” about members’ sexual orientation — in effect, a form of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” But it has expelled adults who were open about it, including a gay troop leader in Seattle who was removed last year after he disclosed his orientation during a TV interview.
Regardless, some local Boy Scout councils have let it be known they are open to gay employees. But the New York councils’ move presents an unusually acute departure from the national policy.
Tessier achieved scouting’s highest rank last year after being one of the most prominent openly gay scouts speaking out to change the ban on gay participation.
The Kensington, Maryland, teen said then he was relieved finally to 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.”