US: Almost-Eagle Scout teenager appears on Ellen, is awarded $20,000 scholarship
After appearing as a guest on the Ellen Degeneres Show, an 18-year-old Boy Scout who was refused the Eagle Scout badge for being gay, has been awarded a $20,000 (£12,476) scholarship towards his college fees.
Ryan Andresen, now 18, who 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, but was refused the badge, once the work was completed.
He told Ellen: “I don’t think it’s fair that not everybody has the opportunity to go through it,” Ryan said about the potential honour of being an Eagle Scout, “I hope people understand discrimination is not OK.”
Mr Andresen told Ellen that he had been told by his Scout leader that he would get the award, and that the Scout leader had known for “quite a while” that he was gay. He said “he told me I would [get the award] so I believed him.”
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.
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Ryan, who came out in July, was told that his scouting membership was to be revoked altogether.
Karen Andresen, 49, Ryan’s mother, had started a petition on Change.org to have her son awarded the badge, which had nearly 400,000 signatures.
Deron Smith, a spokesperson for the Boy Scouts of America, had released a statement about Ryan’s coming out, saying he had: “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.”
He continued: ”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 $20,000 (£12,476) college scholarship was awarded by Shutterfly, an online based personal-publishing service.
Despite not being able to graduate as an Eagle Scout, Mr Andresen said he was grateful to have had the opportunities he experienced through being a Boy Scout for 12 years.