Local teen calls on Amazon to end support for Boy Scouts over policy on gay leaders


Pascal Tessier, then 16, left, protests with others for equality within Boy Scouts of America along Wisconsin Avenue on April 11, 2013 in Bethesda. (Matt McClain/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Kensington resident Pascal Tessier, 17, emerged last year as the young face of the movement for equal treatment of gays and lesbians within Boy Scouts of America. Now, the Eagle Scout is taking the cause to the world’ s largest online retailer, Amazon.com.

Tessier has called on the e-commerce giant to bar the Boy Scouts of America from its charitable giving program, AmazonSmile, until the youth service organization permits openly gay men and women to serve in leadership roles.

A Change.org petition Tessier created along with Scouts for Equality has garnered more than 124,000 signatures to date. Tessier and his mother, Tracie Felker, plan to fly to Seattle Tuesday morning to hand deliver the petition to Amazon’s headquarters.

“Amazon is known for being very progressive. They’ve been a huge friend to the gay rights movement,” Tessier said in an interview. “However they’re indirectly supporting discrimination. . .in their charitable giving programs.”

Corporations have faced increasing pressure from customers for their stances on social and political policies. Last month, the newly appointed chief executive for Mozilla, the organization behind the Firefox Web browser, resigned after heavy criticism of his contributions to same-sex marriage opponents.


Pascal Tessier, 17, stands outside the District offices of Amazon.com Monday, May 19. He spearheaded a Change.org petition calling on Amazon.com to end support for Boy Scouts of America due to its policy toward gay leaders. (Courtesy of Pulin Modi, Change.org/Courtesy of Pulin Modi, Change.org)

Amazon donates 0.5 percent of the price of purchases made through AmazonSmile to an organization of the buyer’s choice. But Tessier asserts that including the Boy Scouts of America in that program violates Amazon’s policy for eligible organizations.

“It’s more asking Amazon to put action to their own words,” Tessier said.

The company’s AmazonSmile Participation Agreement states organizations must “not engage in, support, encourage, or promote: intolerance, discrimination or discriminatory practices based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation, or age.”

“Customers can select from nearly a million legally recognized 501(c)(3) charitable organizations on AmazonSmile. We rely on lists published by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the US Office of Foreign Assets Control to determine if certain organizations are ineligible to participate,” Amazon.com spokesman Ty Rogers said via e-mail.

Amazon.com founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who owns The Washington Post and its affiliated publications, previously made a sizeable donation to organizations fighting for marriage equality in Washington state. Same-sex marriage was made legal there in 2012.

The Boy Scouts of America has faced mounting pressure from its members and financial backers in recent years to become more inclusive of gay scouts and leaders. The organization reversed a ban on openly gay scouts last year, but continues to exclude gay and lesbian adults from membership.

“I’m trying to change a fine point in their policy,” Tessier said. “We’re not trying to break it down or influence the gay agenda. We’re trying to make it a better place where everyone can feel safe.”

Tessier, a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Montgomery County, plans to study psychology at The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio next year.

When contacted about the Change.org petition, Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith issued the following statement:

“Scouting represents millions of youth and adult members in diverse communities across the nation, many of whom have a variety of beliefs on a number of topics. We fully understand and appreciate that not everyone will agree with any one position or policy. Our focus continues to be on working together to deliver the nation’s foremost youth program of character development and values-based leadership training. America’s youth need Scouting, and by continuing to focus on the goals that unite us we continue to accomplish incredible things for young people and the communities we serve. We are thankful to our volunteers and generous supporters who make that possible.”

Follow reporter Steven Overly on Twitter: @StevenOverly

Steven Overly covers the business of technology, biotechnology and venture capital in the Washington region for The Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication. In that capacity, he has written about start-up struggles, investment trends and major drug discoveries.
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