A California teen who spent years in the Boy Scouts completing the requirements to become an Eagle Scout, only to be denied the rank because he’s gay, has received new support by the local council’s review board to receive Scouting’s highest honor, the rank of Eagle Scout.
In what is believed to be the first challenge to the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policy that prohibits gay scouts and gay and lesbian scout leaders, a California chapter of the Boy Scouts of America is directly challenging the ban by formally recommending that Ryan Andresen, an openly gay former Scout, be awarded the top rank of Eagle.
Bonnie Hazarabedian, who chaired the Boy Scout district review board, told Reuters that the BSA anti-gay policy is “something out of the Dark Ages,” but added that Ryan’s sexual orientation was not relevant to whether he should get the award.
Ryan, 18, and his parents drew national attention in October after his Scoutmaster refused to sign his Eagle scout application because of his sexual orientation.
He recently completed the final requirements to earn his Eagle Award, including his final project of building a “tolerance wall” for victims of bullying, which was inspired by the years of hazing he endured in middle school in Moraga, Calif., and later at Boy Scout summer camp, where his nicknames were “Tinkerbell” and “faggot.”
According to his mother Karen Andresen, because Ryan had recently came out to his friends and family as gay, leaders from the Boy Scout Bay Area Region’s Troop 212 said they would not approve his Eagle Award honoring him with the Boy Scouts’ highest rank because of his sexual orientation.
More than 462,000 people subsequently signed a petition at Change.org calling on the Scoutmaster to approve the award, while the Andresens escalated Ryan’s application up the Boy Scout hierarchy in the San Francisco Bay area, where it landed before Hazarabedian’s review board.
Ryan was awarded a $20,000 scholarship from the online photo album company Shutterfly during an appearance on the Ellen Degeneres show in October, after news broke of his rejected Eagle Scout application.
But neither Hazarabedian nor the Andresens expect Ryan’s Eagle award will come so easily.
The Boys Scouts have not yet responded to the review board’s recommendation.