The first known gay Boy Scout to achieve the rank of Eagle is now excluded from the youth organization due to his age.
Pascal Tessier, an out scout who made headlines when became the first gay Eagle Scout in February, turned 18 today and is thus no longer eligible to be a member. The Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on gay youth members in January but did not extend the right to participate to gay adults, which the group defines as 18 and older.
In response to this incident, Tessier penned an open letter to BSA president Robert Gates, the former U.S. Defense Secretary, demanding that the organization amend its discriminatory policy. Tessier, who became a Cub Scout as a youth, pointed out Gates’s hypocrisy in defending the ban with an excuse of putting “the kids and their interests first,” which, Tessier points out, excludes “kids like me, it seems. Kids who have devoted their entire adolescence to Scouting, from Pinewood Derby to Eagle badge, only to be tossed out and told that we are predators.”
Tessier noted that Gates, in his former government position, was “instrumental in the repeal of the military’s ban on gay service members,” and he should apply the same zeal “to bring an end to the unwarranted, unjust and un-Scout like ban on gay adults.”
“Openly gay adults will eventually be allowed in Scouting, Mr. Gates,” Tessier said. “As support for equality continues to grow, Americans will soon demand it. The question before you, then, is not whether the ban should end, but how many more young people like me will be a victim of your failed leadership if you do nothing.”
In a recent interview, BSA national commissioner Tico Perez said the organization does not believe that there is a link between same-sex attraction and child abuse — though it still will not review its policy barring gay men from serving as leaders.
“We’ve done what we are going to do on this issue for now,” he said. “We need to now focus on retooling our movement and to grow. And I don’t think there’s any interest in addressing gay adult leadership at this time. And for a while. I think the movement has spoken on that issue. Our focus is the kids, we are not a political organization, we serve young people.”