New York Boy Scouts hire gay adult de­spite na­tional pol­icy


The Boy Scouts’ New York chap­ter has chal­lenged the scout­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion’s na­tional ban on openly gay adult mem­bers by hir­ing a gay 18- year- old as a sum­mer camp leader.

The Boy Scouts’ Greater New York Coun­cils said Thurs­day they have hired Pas­cal Tessier, an 18- year- old Ea­gle Scout who achieved Amer­i­can scout­ing’s high­est rank last year. He was the first openly gay scout to do so and is one of the most prom­i­nent scouts speak­ing out to change the ban on gay adults’ par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Board mem­ber Richard G. Ma­son said the coun­cils see Tessier as “an ex­em­plary can­di­date for em­ploy­ment as a camp leader.”

The Boy Scouts of Amer­ica’s na­tional spokesman, Deron Smith, said there was no change in that na­tional pol­icy, which has been highly di­vi­sive. As for any fur­ther re­sponse to the New York an­nounce­ment, Smith said, “We are look­ing into this mat­ter.”

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.

When the na­tional Boy Scouts be­gan al­low­ing gay boys as scouts, lib­eral Scout lead­ers and gay rights groups cel­e­brated the shift but called for al­low­ing gay adults to par­tic­i­pate, too. Con­ser­va­tives in­volved with the Scouts, in­clud­ing some churches that spon­sor troops, 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.

Ad­vo­cates for let­ting gays par­tic­i­pate in scout­ing hailed Tessier’s hire.

The 103- year- old New York group says it has never de­nied membership to a youth or adult based on sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, and it didn’t want its pol­icy to be af­fected by the na­tional group’s stance. The New York coun­cils serve over 46,000 scouts.

Ahead 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.

Boy Scouts of Amer­ica lead­ers, af­ter wrestling with the membership pol­icy in 2012 and 2013, have con­veyed no in­ter­est in re­open­ing the dis­cus­sions.

For­mer De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert Gates, who be­came the BSA’s pres­i­dent in May 2014, said at the time that he per­son­ally would have fa­vored end­ing the ban on gay adults, but he op­posed any fur­ther de­bate af­ter the Scouts’ pol­i­cy­mak­ing body up­held the ban. Re­open­ing the is­sue, Gates said, “would ir­repara­bly frac­ture and per­haps even pro­voke a for­mal, per­ma­nent split in this move­ment — with the high like­li­hood nei­ther side would sub­se­quently sur­vive on its own.”

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