An openly gay member of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has been awarded the Eagle Scout badge just weeks after the organisation lifted its ban on gay members.
The BSA last year lifted its ban on gay scouting members, a change which came into effect on 1 January 2014.
Pascal Tessier, a member of Troop 52, was awarded the Eagle Scout badge on Monday evening to applause and handshakes, becoming what is likely, the first openly-gay Eagle Scout.
The Maryland Boy Scout is 17-years old, and achieving the badge meant six years of work, including 27 merit badges and leadership, outdoor skills and service projects.
“A Scout is brave,” Troop leader Don Beckham said on presenting the badge to Tessier.
“To be a leader, there are going to be situations where you are going to have to stand up for what you believe is right,” he went on.
“You may be asked to make personal sacrifices, to potentially give up your dreams because you are helping to make something happen that is important for a lot of other people. … And when it’s a principle that you believe in, use your Scout training and stand up for what is right because a Scout is brave.”
Tessier’s mother described his achievement as “a new era”, and Tessier said he breathed “a huge sigh of relief”.
Despite there being no official record of gay scouts, it is believed that Tessier is the first openly gay scouting member to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.
“Even if I had been kicked out along the way, I wouldn’t have changed anything,” he said. “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.”
On campaigning against the BSA’s policy, which used to ban gay youth members, and still bans openly gay adult staff and volunteers, many Eagle Scouts last year sent in their badges, revoking their memberships.
Tessier has said he plans to become an adult BSA leader on his 18th birthday, in order to push for the inclusion of openly-gay adult scout leaders. Under the policy it is still possible that he would be expelled from the BSA, or would not be allowed to continue as an adult leader.