17-yer-old Ryan Andresen joined the Boy Scouts when he was 6 and had just completed his final requirement to earn his Eagle Scout award (ironically, a “tolerance wall” for victims of bullying, like himself) only to learn that he was disqualified because he had recently come out as gay.
Andresen’s Scoutmaster for Troop 212 in Moraga, CA, refused to sign off on his Eagle Scout award, the Boy Scout’s highest ranking. And late Thursday, the Boy Scouts of America said in a statement that due to Andresen’s sexual orientation and his refusal to agree to their principle of “Duty to God,” he’s no longer eligible for membership.
“I want everyone to know that [the Eagle award] should be based on accomplishment, not your sexual orientation. Ryan entered Scouts when he was 6-years-old and in no way knew what he was,” Ryan’s mother, Karen Andresen, told NBC News. “I think right now the Scoutmaster is sending Ryan the message that he’s not a valued human being and I want Ryan to know that he is valued … and that people care about him.”
Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boys Scouts, said in a statement that Andresen recently “notified his unit leadership and Eagle Scout Counselor that he does not agree to Scouting’s principle of ‘Duty to God’ and does not meet Scouting’s membership standard on sexual orientation. While the BSA did not proactively ask for this information, based on his statements and after discussion with his family he is being informed that he is no longer eligible for membership in Scouting.”
The Boy Scouts of America have come under fire for its ban on gay members and leaders, which it reaffirmed in July, leading dozens of Eagle Scouts to return their medals. Last month, tech giant Intel, one of the Scout’s biggest donors, announced that it would no longer donate to the organization, or any organization that didn’t adhere to its anti-discrimination policy. Additionally, both President Obama and Mitt Romney voiced opposition to the Scouts’ gay ban.
Though the Boy Scouts of America are unlikely to change their discriminatory policies any time soon, Mrs. Andresen has started an online petition calling for her son to receive his award.
“It hurts me so much to watch Ryan suffer for being who he is, because to me, he’s perfect,” Mrs. Andresen wrote. “Ryan has worked for nearly 12 years to become an Eagle Scout, and nothing would make him more proud than earning that well-deserved distinction. I hope that if enough people come together, we can convince my son’s troop leaders to help him feel proud of who he is and all he’s accomplished.”