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New York Boy Scouts hires first openly gay summer camp leader

The New York chapter of the Boy Scouts of America has hired its first openly gay summer camp leader, the organization announced Thursday.

Eighteen-year-old Pascal Tessier, who was also the first openly gay Eagle Scout, will work as a counselor at the Ten Mile River Scout camp in upstate New York this summer.

In 2014, Tessier was influential in the Boy Scouts’ decision to lift its longtime ban on accepting openly gay youth into the program. The ban, however, remains in effect for openly gay leaders who are 18 and older.

On his 18th birthday last August, Tessier wrote in an open letter to Boy Scouts of America President, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates:

Today is my 18th birthday, a milestone on my path to becoming an adult and the day I am no longer eligible to be a Boy Scout because I am gay. Despite the Boy Scouts’ historic decision last year to open its ranks to gay youth, the Scouts still ban gay adults. And as of today, that means me.

The New York affiliate’s move in hiring Tessier is a direct challenge to the national organization’s policy.

The Boy Scouts of America has said it doesn’t “proactively inquire” about members’ sexual orientation, akin to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred openly gay soldiers from the military.

Gates oversaw the end of this ban during his time as defense secretary in 2010.

Zach Wahls of Scouts for Equality has described Tessier’s hiring as a “watershed moment.”

“We are proud to see such an important Boy Scout council standing up for the full inclusion of gay members,” he said in a statement.

But Tessier’s lawyer, David Boies, warned of possible litigation between the New York chapter and organization’s national headquarters.

The Boy Scouts’ chief spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement the organization’s policies for adult leaders and employees have not changed and that they are “looking into the matter.”

Richard Mason, a board member of the Greater New York Council, described Tessier as “very well qualified” and said they passed on his application to the national board for review.

“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,” he told Buzzfeed News.