In an unprecedented move, the Boy Scouts of America's New York chapter has hired an openly gay Eagle Scout as a summer camp leader.
The decision to hire Pascal Tessier, an 18-year-old Eagle Scout from Maryland, as a counselor at the Ten Mile River Scout Camp in upstate New York is a direct challenge to the Boy Scouts' existing ban on openly gay adult participants, the Associated Press is reporting.
Board member Richard G. Mason praised Tessier, who has been an outspoken advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, as an "exemplary candidate" for the counselor role, and said New York members "did not want our policy of non-discrimination to be affected by the national policy" in an email statement sent to The Huffington Post.
"New York City and New York State law clearly prohibit employers from excluding qualified men and women from employment based on sexual orientation," he noted, and said he and other board members welcomed Tessier and "look forward to his participation in our camp program."
Among those to applaud the move was Scouts for Equality's Executive Director Zach Wahls, who called Tessier's hiring "a watershed moment."
"As the controversy swirling in Indiana, Arkansas, and elsewhere demonstrates, Americans are no longer willing to tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation," Wahls said in a statement. "We are proud to see such an important Boy Scout council standing up for the full inclusion of gay members and affirming that the values and principles of scouting are important to all people regardless of sexual orientation or age."
Echoing those sentiments was Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, who called it "a historic day for the Boy Scouts of America -- and for the courageous and talented young man, Pascal Tessier, who seeks only to work for the organization that he loves."
It isn't the first time that Tessier has made history. In 2014, he became the first out Eagle Scout to be approved after the Boy Scouts lifted its ban on gay youth participants.
"Even if I had been kicked out along the way, I wouldn't have changed anything," he told the AP at the time. "The whole experience was something worth having, not only for myself but also for all the other people involved -- and for all the people it affects."
If his hiring is challenged at the national level, however, Tessier is already represented by lawyer David Boies, BuzzFeed reported. Boies told reporter Chris Geidner that the formal BSA policy is "obviously against the law in a number of states, including New York."
"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," he is quoted as saying.