Tags: Boy scouts | gay | new york | discrimination

NY AG Investigates Boy Scouts for Possible Anti-Gay Hiring

By    |   Tuesday, 21 Apr 2015 03:07 PM

Three weeks after the Greater New York Council of Boy Scouts hired the first openly gay camp leader, New York state attorney general's office has initiated an investigation to determine whether the employment practices of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) violate state discrimination laws.

On Tuesday, Kristen Clarke, the head of the attorney general's civil rights bureau, sent a letter informing Wayne Brock, the chief scout executive of BSA, that her office had received information suggesting their membership may prohibit "the hiring of an individual who recently applied for a position as an adult leader in a Boy Scouts council within New York," according to The New York Times.

The participation of gays in the scouting organization has been an ongoing controversy which peaked in 2000 when the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts have a constitutional right to exclude gay members.

However, in May 2013, the 1,400-member national council of the Boy Scouts of America attempted voted to allow openly gay boys to join, although it did not open its scouting ranks to openly gay members.

The BSA announced that effective Jan. 1, 2014, "no youth may be denied membership in the BSA on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone," which it said would allow "kids who sincerely want to be a part of Scouting to experience this life-changing program while remaining true to the longstanding virtues of the Boy Scouts of America."

In her letter to the BSA, Clarke noted it was illegal to deny employment in New York state based on sexual orientation and also forbids discrimination on the job.

According to the Times, Clarke also requested "information about the national organization’s role in, and its ability to control, hiring decisions made by the local councils," but did not indicate what action would be taken if violations were found or how her office would enforce state discrimination law.

The recent turmoil originates in the decision by the Greater New York Council of Boy Scouts to break with the national organization and hire an openly gay summer camp leader, Pascal Tessier, an 18-year-old Eagle Scout, The New York Times reported earlier this month.

"We’ve had an anti-discrimination policy for a very, very long time. This young man applied for a job. We judged his application on the merits. He’s highly qualified. We said yes to him irrespective of his sexual orientation," said Richard Mason, a board member of the Greater New York Councils, which serves all five of New York City's boroughs.

Deron Smith, the national spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, countered that the policy concerning openly gay scouts had not changed and told the Times, "We are looking into this matter."

Anticipating the possibility that the national organization might override the local council's decision, Tessier hired lawyer David Boies, who joined with former Bush solicitor general Ted Olson to challenge California's same-sex marriage ban.

Boies has been pressing former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the president of the Boy Scouts, to end the ban, reports BuzzFeed.

"He knows himself that ending this discrimination is the right thing to do. He’s always been a leader and part of the function of a leader is to move things along, and I think the Boy Scouts need somebody who is prepared to stand up and say, ‘This is the right thing to do, and this is the right time to do it,’" he said in an interview.

Zach Wahls, executive director of Scouts for Equality, also weighed in on Tessier's hiring, characterizing it as "a watershed moment" because he would be the first openly gay adult to be hired by the New York Council.

However, he continued by cautioning the national organization from attempting to reverse the Council's decision.

"But if the Boy Scouts of America National Council steps in to force the Greater New York Councils to rescind their offer to hire Pascal, it will represent a boldfaced example of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which is illegal in New York State," added Wahls.

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New York state attorney general's office has initiated an investigation to determine whether the employment practices of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) violate state discrimination laws.
Boy scouts, gay, new york, discrimination
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2015-07-21
Tuesday, 21 Apr 2015 03:07 PM
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