Boy Scouts’ LGBT Policy Challenged by New York Chapter

The Greater New York Councils of the Boy Scouts of America this week hired Pascal Tessier, one of the first openly gay Eagle Scouts, as a camp counselor. His hire sets up a potential battle with the national organization over its ban on LGBT adults. Tessier already has a prominent lawyer in his corner, just in case.

Eagle Scout Pascal Tessier has been something of a trailblazer in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

As one of the first openly gay Scouts, the 18-year-old Tessier was right out front as the organization lifted its ban on gay youths last year. His next move could force the national group to change its LGBT policy for adults as well.

On Thursday, the Greater New York Councils chapter of BSA, which represents scouting in New York City’s five boroughs, announced that it had hired Tessier to be a counselor at a Scout summer camp. While his hiring—and the national attention it’s drawing—could cause problems for the national organization, it wasn’t an issue at the local level.

“We’ve had an antidiscrimination policy for a very, very long time,” board member Richard G. Mason told The New York Times. “This young man applied for a job. We judged his application on the merits. He’s highly qualified. We said yes to him irrespective of his sexual orientation.”

Fitting for someone working to challenge the status quo, Tessier has been working closely with lawyer David Boies, widely known for representing Al Gore in the hotly contested 2000 presidential election. Boies, whose courtroom advocacy has been focused on gay-rights issues in recent years, suggested that a lawsuit by the BSA against its New York chapter could upend the national organization’s policy for adults.

“We all started this with the idea that the best resolution of this was a resolution based on conciliation and agreement,” Boies told The Associated Press. “It is certainly a remarkable development because we now have the first openly gay Scout leader employed by the Boy Scouts. We hope that is the beginning of the end, if you will, of the policy nationwide.”

However, that may be easier said than done. BSA, which has already taken away one troop’s charter for its insistence on having a gay troop leader, has emphasized that its policy hasn’t changed and that it is looking into the matter.

If the case becomes a legal battle, the organization could be facing off against one of the country’s most prominent lawyers. The no-gays policy for adult leaders “is obviously against the law in a number of states, including New York,” Boies told Buzzfeed.

(iStock Editorial/Thinkstock)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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