A New York Boy Scouts council has broken new ground by hiring an openly gay man as a leader, but he’s already preparing for a legal challenge by retaining a prominent lawyer.
In what appears to be the first hiring of an out gay man by the Boy Scouts, the Greater New York Councils of the Boy Scouts of America tapped Pascal Tessier to work at its scout camps this summer, BuzzFeed reports.
But the BSA, having lifted its ban on gay youth members more than a year ago, still bars gay adults (those 18 and older) from serving as leaders — so just in case the national organization challenges Tessier’s hiring, David Boies, one of the lawyers who brought down California’s antigay Proposition 8, is ready to step in.
Boies told BuzzFeed the situation may provide an ideal way to challenge the national policy, as the council opposes antigay discrimination and New York State law bans it, but he hopes legal action is not necessary.
“We’re hopeful that [Tessier’s hiring] signals the end of the last vestige of the Scouts’ discrimination,” Boies said. “While I don’t want to be overly optimistic, I think this signals, at least the end of this type of discrimination on a national level. Whether or not they’re going to allow individual councils to continue to discriminate, I don’t know. I hope not, I hope not.”
Officials with the Greater New York Councils said they have received no blowback from national leaders regarding Tessier. “We’ve accepted him, he was put through the normal process,” Richard Mason, a board member and spokesman for Greater New York Councils, told BuzzFeed. “They have not, to my knowledge, rejected him, so, as far as we are concerned, this young man is coming to work, is ready to do so this summer.”
The national BSA has so far not responded to BuzzFeed’s request for comment on Tessier’s hiring, but a spokesman said the policy on gay adult leaders has not changed. Meanwhile, Boies has written a letter to BSA president Robert Gates, the former secretary of defense, urging him to end the ban.
“He knows himself that ending this discrimination is the right thing to do,” Boies told BuzzFeed. “He’s always been a leader and part of the function of a leader is to move things along, and I think the Boy Scouts need somebody who is prepared to stand up and say, ‘This is the right thing to do, and this is the right time to do it.’”
Tessier is the first known openly gay person to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout after the BSA's policy change — receiving his badge in February 2014. Last August, when he turned 18 and became ineligible to participate in scouting, he wrote an open letter to the BSA urging a full lifting of the ban as well.