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Two Distinct Messages Greet Delegates Before Boy Scout Vote

Activists made one last push for support before Thursday’s vote in Grapevine on openly gay membership to the Boy Scouts of America.

And both sides say the result will dramatically impact the future of the Irving-based organization.

Troopmasters, Eagle Scouts and volunteers against openly gay scout membership set up shop Wednesday just down the road from the annual meeting.

They put up a tent and handed out signs to volunteers lining the roadway. Their message is simple: Vote no on the resolution.

Scoutmaster Thomas Dillingham from McKinney says if that doesn’t happen, his family is done with the Boy Scouts.

“If they make the wrong choice, I’ll never be back, simple as that. My biggest concern is I’ve got a nine year-old and he won’t be in the program,” Dillingham says. “There’s no way I’m going to allow him into a program with open homosexuality.”

Plano Eagle Scout Eric Hay, now 22 years-old and openly bisexual, strongly supports gay Boy Scout membership. Openly gay adults will continue to be banned from scouting, so Hay can’t volunteer with a troop, but he hopes delegates won’t vote to exclude boys he considers future leaders.

“I think Boy Scouts of America should have been some of the very first to be supporting the inclusion, supporting gay scouts, supporting people who want to grow up to be great men,” Hay says.

The looming vote has drawn activists from around the country; including Rob Schwarzwalder with the Washington D.C. based Family Research Council. He says openly gay membership, and sexuality in general, has no place in scouting.

“No boy is asked whether or not he’s gay, no boy is compelled to talk about his sexuality,” Schwarzwalder says. “What we’re talking about is boys who openly say that they’re gay and then want to come forward and intrude with that message into the scouts. And we’re very concerned about that.”

Someone who isn’t concerned is Pascal Tessier, a 16 year-old Boy Scout from Maryland on track for his Eagle Award. He came out as openly gay knowing that it might exclude him from continuing as a Boy Scout. But he says at this point, he’s more concerned about standing up for what he believes in.

“I was provided the opportunity to make a big difference and I want to take it no matter what the consequences were,” Tessier says. “Even if they decide to ban me today, there will not be any regrets.”

The delegates, about 1,400 members in all, will vote on the resolution Thursday. A simple majority will decide it.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.