First Openly Gay Eagle Scout Under New Policy, But Brother Excluded From Scouting

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First Openly Gay Eagle Scout Under New Policy, But Brother Excluded From Scouting

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Pascal Tessier, a high school senior from Kensington, Md., looked up to his older brother Lucien and followed him on the path in Boy Scouting to attain the highest rank of Eagle.

Last night, just nine months after the Boy Scouts of America lifted its longtime ban on admitting openly gay Scouts, 17-year-old Pascal became the first to receive that coveted award at the All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase, Md.

But his 21-year-old brother, who is also gay but had to keep his sexuality low key on his path to becoming an Eagle, can no longer participate in Scouting because he is an adult. In a two-tiered policy that began on Jan. 1, the Boy Scouts of America has embraced younger youth who are gay, but not those over 18.

"From a logical perspective, it's an indefensible policy," said the brothers' mother, Tracie Felker, 58. "I do think that the policy is an improvement over the old one, which was so damning to youth. It's sad for the Scouts who have treated young boys this way. But the new policy can't be viewed with any kind of integrity. To think that an Eagle Scout is 15, 16, or 17 and then suddenly they are no longer worthy to be a part of Scouting."

Felker told that both her sons had been avid Scouts in Troop 52 since elementary school.

"Pascal has been involved since the first grade," she said. "He had been looking forward to Eagle since the day he joined. He has been very involved and loves it. The one thing he really wanted was to do what his older brother had done."

For his Eagle project, Pascal had replaced a brick sidewalk at the Audubon Natural Society in Chevy Chase, Md. He rounded up about 20 volunteers who worked for eight hours after months of extensive planning.

"It's a lot of work, but he had a large crew working with him," said Felker, who works in Internet technology. "It's the planning of the project. Youth learn about project management and identify resource materials and cost. It's a great opportunity for young men to tackle something big."

Pascal has been openly gay since he was in the eighth grade, according to his mother.

"The difference is that when Lucien was going through Scouts he didn't come out until later," said Felker. "Lucien was in the 10th grade and was open with his friends and family about who he was, and didn't broadcast it throughout Scouting. He knew about the policy, and sort of flew under the radar. It's not that he was in the closet, but he didn't use it as a pulpit."

Other Scouts during the old policy were not so lucky.

Ryan Andresen of Morago, Calif., spent a decade completing the requirements for the Eagle award, and just as he was about to turn 18, the cut-off date for attaining the highest honor, his troop leader would not approve it because Andresen was gay.

That was in 2012 before the new policy had taken effect.

In May of 2013, the Boy Scouts' 1,400 national membership ended its ban on openly gay boys under the age of 18. The 103-year-old organization said at the time that, it had completed its "most comprehensive listening exercise in Scouting's history" on the issue.

Its president, Wayne Perry, said during a news conference following the vote, "This is a very difficult decision for a lot of people, but we're moving forward together. ... Our vision is to serve every kid."

But Zach Wahls, the son of lesbian mothers and founder and executive director of the advocacy group, Scouts for Equality, said the new policy, which excludes men like Lucien Tessier, continues to be unfair.

"You can label it anything you want," he told "But at the end of the day, it's discrimination."

"To be sure, this is a bittersweet moment," said Wahls, 22, of Pascal's award. "But the policy will change. I think today we are trying to figure out not if it will change, but when."

Pascal has all his applications in to college and wants to study psychology or political science.

"He wants to work with adolescents –- and from reading his essays, I think he really understand their perspective," said his mother.

Meanwhile, his brother Lucien has taken a break from Northern Virginia Community College and is working at a law firm.

Felker said Pascal's troop leader Don Beckham has been "fantastic" throughout the Eagle process.

"He was very supportive and kept a very even keel throughout all of this," she said.

"The boys were in a huge circle in the Great Hall and Don stepped forward and announced that the troop had a new Eagle Scout and he called Pascal forward. He handed him the Eagle badge and there was a loud, thunderous cascade of applause again and again and again. And Don gave a lovely little talk –- not referring to Pascal -– reminding Scouts of the part of the [Scout] Promise what it is to be brave."

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