US: Gay teenager allowed to continue as a Boy Scout following 460,000 strong petition
A Boy Scout Council in California has approved a gay scout’s application to be allowed to continue as a boy scout after coming out as gay, following a petition of more than 460,000 signatures, started by his mother.
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.
His scout leader refused to award him the Eagle Scout badge once the work was completed because he was openly gay.
He was granted an official Eagle Board of Review on 19 December 2012, and Boy Scout leaders submitted their approval recommendation on 31 December to the Mount Diablo-Silverado council.
Approval from the Board of Review overrules the decision by his Scout Leader.
Mr Andresen’s application for the Eagle Scout badge will be forwarded to the national organisation for final approval.
Ryan Andresen commented on his victory, 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. In response to the Boy Scout Council’s decision, Karen Andresen 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, confirmed that Ryan’s application had been 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.”
Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls, who initially helped Karen launch her petition on Change.org, said he hopes this victory will 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.
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GLAAD President, Herndon Graddick, released a statement on this 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.