When the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on gay scouts in 2013, nobody busted out the rainbow flags and declared a cultural victory. That’s because in the same breath, the organization upheld its ban on LGBT adult scout leaders, essentially saying that a gay Boy Scout was “trustworthy, loyal and helpful” only until his 18th birthday.
The Greater New York Councils, the BSA’s New York affiliate, have officially called BS. This week, they loudly and proudly announced the hiring of Pascal Tessier (below), an 18-year-old openly gay Eagle Scout who goes to college in Ohio, to work at a summer camp this year.
Even more impressive is how public the New York group, which runs programs for more than 46,000 Boy Scouts, has been about Tessier’s joining the staff. There’s no “don’t ask, don’t tell” here — the New York scouts are telling, whether or not you’re asking.
“We’ve had an antidiscrimination policy for a very, very long time,” said Richard G. Mason, a board member of the Greater New York Councils, the local umbrella group for Boy Scouts in the city’s five boroughs. “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.”
Mr. Mason said the New York group had not received word of any objection. “He’s coming to work for us in the summertime,” he said.
The national BSA has responded, albeit timidly; at this point, their homophobic ban has exponentially more opponents than supporters, and they know it.
The Boy Scouts’ national spokesman, Deron Smith, issued a statement saying the national policy had not changed. As for Mr. Tessier’s hiring in New York, Mr. Smith said, “We are looking into this matter.”
As an added bonus, Tessier is not your average gay-scout-turned-employee. He’s been one of the most prominent LGBT youth voices against the BSA’s ban since it was announced, going as far as to consider legal action against the organization.
Mr. Tessier, who said last year that scouting “gave me all the good morals that I have,” pushed back.
His lawyer, David Boies — one of the lawyers who challenged Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative in California that banned same-sex marriage and was later overturned in the courts — said that the challenge was meant to be nonconfrontational but that a change in the policy was inevitable. “What I hope is they will see this as an opportunity to get themselves out of a place where they don’t want to be,” he said of national scouting leaders. “An institution like the Boy Scouts doesn’t want to be the last bastion of discrimination nationally.”
Robert M. Gates, the former C.I.A. director who now leads the BSA, has said that the issue of gay adult leaders has left the scouting community “divided, distracted and defensive” and that he doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. Surprise!
“In all candor,” he added, “I would have supported going further, as I did in opening the way for gays to serve in C.I.A. and in the military.” But he also said the scouts “must put this issue behind us and move forward.”
He said he would oppose taking up the issue again, because doing so “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.”
Hmm. It’s pretty clear that institutions which include everyone are far more capable of “subsequently surviving on [their] own” than those who choose to discriminate. (Indiana backlash, anyone?) The New York Councils have fired the first shot, and as soon as others join them, the BSA is going to be outnumbered. They can follow society where it’s heading, or they can stay behind and fade away.
(Image via YouTube)