In what advocates are calling a "watershed moment," the Boy Scouts' New York chapter said yesterday 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' Greater New York Councils announced the hiring of 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. The Boy Scouts' national spokesman, Deron Smith, says there's been no change in the national organization's policy, which has been highly divisive. As for any further response to the New York announcement, Smith says, "We are looking into the matter."
"We received this application from this young man, and we found him highly qualified on all the merits," says a board member for the New York group. "We have an anti-discrimination policy, we believe in it very firmly, and we are executing on it." 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. A lawyer advising Tessier 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 hope that is the beginning of the end, if you will, of the policy nationwide," he says. (Read more Boy Scouts of America stories.)