LONG ISLAND, NY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to end its policy of excluding openly gay adults from serving as leaders in the organization. As part of the settlement, the BSA has agreed to eliminate the standard nationally, develop guidelines for implementing its new leadership standard, and ensure compliance with anti-discrimination laws going forward.
“Today’s announcement is a watershed moment for the Boy Scouts of America. The mission of the Boy Scouts is to prepare our nation’s young people to become responsible citizens and leaders, and I can think of no better way of doing that than by enabling young people to learn from a diverse group of role models,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “I am pleased to see the Boy Scouts of America renew its commitment to equal protection under the law, and I look forward to the organization welcoming a new generation of LGBT scout leaders in the months and years ahead.”
“Our family is grateful for the support of the New York Attorney General in holding the Boy Scouts of America accountable for its anti-gay employment and membership policies,” said Tracie Felker, the mother of Pascal Tessier, the gay youth member who applied to work for the Greater New York Councils. “The policy change enacted today will lay the framework for a new era of acceptance and equal opportunity for gay scouts and leaders in the Boy Scout program.”
The BSA was founded in 1910 and chartered by Congress with the mission of preparing young people to become responsible citizens and leaders. Historically, the BSA excluded openly gay individuals from membership and leadership, but this policy changed in May 2013, when the BSA announced that youth, up to age 17, could no longer be denied membership on the basis of sexual orientation alone. At that time, however, the BSA did not change its adult leadership standard and continued to maintain a nationwide policy that excluded openly gay individuals aged eighteen or older.
In December 2014, an openly gay BSA youth member, who had recently turned eighteen, submitted an application to work as a camp staffer with the Greater New York Councils. The Greater New York Councils hired the openly gay individual in February 2015. Aware that the staffer was required, as part of his employment, to register as an adult leader of the BSA, the Greater New York Councils submitted the staffer’s adult leader application to the BSA for such registration. The BSA registered the individual and took no action to interfere with his employment by the Greater New York Councils.
In response to concerns about the BSA’s adult leadership standard, the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau opened an investigation into the BSA in April 2015. As a result of the Attorney General’s investigation, the BSA took immediate steps to suspend the enforcement of its adult leadership standard in New York State. In May 2015, at its national annual meeting, BSA President Dr. Robert Gates encouraged the BSA to consider changing its leadership standard that excluded openly gay adults, and further stated that the BSA would not take any action against local councils that did not follow the BSA’s leadership standard in order to comply with state anti-discrimination laws. First by vote of its Executive Committee on July 10, and then by ratification by its National Executive Board on July 27, 2015, the BSA rescinded its leadership standard.
Under the terms of the agreement with Attorney General Schneiderman, the BSA agreed to:
•Permanently eliminate the leadership standard excluding openly gay adults, on a nationwide basis;
•Develop guidelines for the implementation of its new leadership standard;
•Designation of an Equal Employment Opportunity Officer;
•Develop a training program for all managerial employees concerning the new leadership standard and its effect upon the recruitment, hiring, and retention of employees in New York; and
•Monitor for complaints concerning violations of its new leadership standard.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Justin Deabler, and Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke. The Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice, which is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Alvin Bragg.