Gay teenager, Ryan Andresen, has been denied the highest Boy Scouts honour, the Eagle Scout badge, by the national Boy Scouts of America organisation, despite a recommendation for approval from a review board at his local council, and a 460,000 strong petition in his favour.
PinkNews reported on Tuesday that the Mount Diablo-Silverado council had forwarded his application on to the Boy Scouts, with a recommendation to approve his application, however it has now emerged that the council staff executive will not forward on the application.
The national organisation of the Boy Scouts of America has said it still had not approved his application. BSA spokesperson, Deron Smith, said:
“The Eagle application was forwarded, by a volunteer, to the local council but it was not approved because this young man proactively stated that he does not agree to Scouting’s principle of ‘duty of God’ and does not meet Scouting’s membership requirements,” said a prepared statement from Smith. “Therefore, he is not eligible to receive the rank of Eagle.”
The four-volunteer board had agreed to review his case, and unanimously approved his application on 31 December.
The BSA has also said it does not actively seek to find out the sexual orientation of its members.
Ryan Andresen, 18, from Moraga, California, joined the scouts when he was six, had completed all of the requirements for the Eagle Scout Badge, which included building a 288-tile “tolerance wall” for victims of bullying, such as himself.
Ryan Andresen commented on what he thought was a victory, after the local board approved his application, saying that he hoped it would bring hope to other gay boy scouts. He said:
“I want other gay Scouts to know, especially those who are hiding who they really are, that this win is for you. Thank you to everyone who joined my mom’s campaign. Your signatures made this possible,
“It’s been a wild and exhausting ride. I’m really looking forward to life getting back to normal, and to being able to focus on my final year of high school and completing my college applications.”
Karen Andresen, 49, Ryan’s mother, had started a petition on Change.org to have her son awarded the badge, which contained over 460,000 signatures. When she believed he would be awarded the Eagle Scout badge, she said:
“I’m just so incredibly happy for Ryan. He’s worked so hard for this honour, and as a mother, it means the world to me to know that our local Scouting community believes in him, too.
“Regardless of what the BSA’s National Advancement Team decides to do with his application, this victory makes it all worth it, and gives me so much hope for the future of the organization.”
Bonnie Hazarabedian, the volunteer District Advancement Chair who headed Ryan Andresen’s Eagle Board of Review, had confirmed that Ryan’s application was approved at the local district and council levels. She said:
“Ryan did everything right in this process, with respect and honesty, requesting an Eagle Board of Review under disputed circumstances when his Scoutmaster refused to sign the application. Following BSA advancement policies in such situations, we felt an Eagle Board of Review was justified.
“We are convinced that Ryan has demonstrated he deserves the rank of Eagle Scout.”
It was previously reported that the council were “challenging” the BSA’s national organisation by some news sources, however it now appears that this is not the case.
Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls, who initially helped Karen launch her petition on Change.org, said he hoped the victory on local level would embolden even more local Boy Scout councils to reject the Boy Scouts of America’s “hurtful” anti-gay membership policy.
“The Mount Diablo-Silverado Council joins a growing list of Boy Scout councils and charter organizations that are refusing to embrace the Boy Scouts of America’s hurtful anti-gay membership policy,” said Wahls.
Change is coming, council by council, community by community,” he added.
GLAAD President, Herndon Graddick, released a statement on the previous ruling, and questioned whether the national governing body of the Boy Scouts of America would follow. He said:
“Councils across the nation are rejecting the Boy Scouts’ grossly discriminatory ban on gay scouts, echoing the support of fellow scouts, business leaders, and the American public,
“How long can the BSA go on ignoring its own members and its core values of fairness, leadership and integrity? The growing number of councils welcoming gay scouts and leaders reminds BSA autocrats: change will come with you, or without you.”
As well as receiving the support through the petition and the scholarship, 170 Eagle Scouts had pledged to send Ryan their Eagle Scout pins out of support, 50 of whom came from his own Scout troop.
The Boy Scouts have already lost funding from several large corporate donors, including UPS, back in November, who had given over $150,000 (£95,000), Intel, another of the scouts’ largest donors, ceased funding back in September, and the Merck Foundation in December.
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