CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, Calif. — A 17-year-old high school senior from this hillside area just east of Oakland, Calif., has been told by the Boy Scouts that he is not eligible to be awarded the rank of Eagle Scout because he is gay.
Ryan Andresen, an honors student with impressive SAT scores, and who’s aspiring to attend the University of San Francisco, joined the Boy Scouts when he was 6 years old. He recently completed the final requirements to earn his Eagle Award, including his final project of building a “tolerance wall” for victims of bullying, much like himself.
According to his mother Karen Andresen, because Ryan recently came out to his friends and family as gay, leaders from the Boy Scout Bay Area Region’s Troop 212 say they won’t approve his Eagle Award honoring him with the Boy Scouts’ highest rank because of his sexual orientation.
“I want everyone to know that [the Eagle award] should be based on accomplishment, not your sexual orientation. Ryan entered Scouts when he was six years old and in no way knew what he was,” Andresen, 49, 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.”
Not to be deterred, this mom-turned-activist has launched a Change.org petition to get her son his Eagle Award.
“Ryan worked countless hours with elementary students to amass a wall of 288 unique tiles, all illustrating acts of kindness,” Andresen said.
Late Thursday, the Boy Scouts of America issued a statement saying that because of Andresen’s sexual orientation and that he did not agree to Scouting’s principle of “Duty to God,” “he is no longer eligible for membership in Scouting.”
“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,” Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, told NBC News in a statement.
“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.”
In an e-mail Thursday to LGBTQ Nation, Eagle Scout and LGBTQ equality rights activist Zach Wahls, who acknowledged that his organization Scouts For Equality has been contacted by the Andresen family, said that the reaction to Karen Andresen’s Change.org petition has been extremely positive.
Ryan’s father, Eric Andresen, a 52-year-old owner of a property management company, is also working on an appeal of the BSA decision.