A Maryland teenager has become the first openly gay Boy Scout to achieve the youth organization's highest rank.
Pascal Tessier, 17, accepted the Eagle Scout badge Monday night in Chevy Chase, Md. Tessier, who received the honor at a meeting of Boy Scout Troop 52, is the first known out scout to attain the Boy Scouts of America's highest rank since the organization's national council voted to lift its ban on gay members (but not adult leaders) last May. The new policy went into effect January of this year.
"It's just really amazing, and it honestly hasn't really sunk in yet," Tessier told The Washington Post. "We didn't know if it was going to happen at all."
Tessier, who is a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, had risked his chances of becoming an Eagle Scout by participating in a public protest prior to the BSA's vote last year, an act that could have resulted in his expulsion had the outcome been different. Tessier had launched an online camapaign alongside his older brother, Lucien, a Boy Scout alumnus who had come out shortly after attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.
And although he has now achieved the BSA's highest rank, which requires the acquisition of skills-based merit badges and the completion of a community service project, Tessier will not be eligible to become an adult leader once he turns 18.
"While the BSA does not proactively inquire about the sexual orientation of employees, volunteers, or members, we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA," reads the BSA's current policy for adult leaders.
"It's kind of a backhanded acceptance: We accept you for now," Tessier said. "It says to you, you're a monster of some sort."
Zach Wahls, the executive director of Scouting for Equality and a fellow recipient of the Eagle Scout honor, expressed optimism that the BSA would change its tune, particularly in the wake of the accomplishments of role models like Tessier.
"We certainly think this is a day to celebrate," Wahls told the Post. "As we see more Pascal Tessiers coming up though the program, getting their Eagle Scouts, other scouting parents and other scouting leaders who might be a little more conservative will see there is nothing to be afraid of, that Pascal is a phenomenal young man and people like him make scouting better."