Boy Scout Denied Eagle Award Because He is Gay
A California Boy Scout who was on his way to become an Eagle Scout was denied the organization's highest honor because his troop leader found out he is gay, NBC News reports.
Ryan Andresen, 17, recently finished creating a project that commemorated youth that were victims of bullying, like himself. The completed "tolerance wall" was supposed to earn him an Eagle Scout award, the Boy Scouts of America's highest honor. But his troop leader denied the young man the prestigious award because of his sexual orientation.
"He said he can't because Ryan said he is gay," Karen Andresen, 49, the scout's mother, said according to Yahoo News. The Andresens live in Moraga, a town near San Francisco.
The BSA released a statement that stated Andresen had been booted from the organization because he is gay and did not agree to the Scout's policy of "Duty to God."
"He is no longer eligible for membership in Scouting," the statement reads.
The BSA's longstanding controversial policy that prohibits gay members from joining the organization has been challenged a number of times. In 2000, it reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled for the Scouts.
"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," Ryan's mother said. "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."
Andresen came out this summer and the Scout's mother said his Scoutmaster knew he was gay and was surprised that he refused the teen his award.
BSA spokesman Deron Smith told NBC News that 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. 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."
Andresen's mother has launched an online petition urging for BSA officials to give her son his award. Currently, the Change.org petition has more than 157,000 signatures. She said that other troop leaders have supported the cause as well.
Zach Wahls, who rose to fame after a video of him defending same-sex marriage in Iowa went viral, is an Eagle Scout and a has called for the BSA's anti-gay policy to be repealed. In June, the 20-year-old engineering student delivered a petition with 275,000 signatures to the BSA that demanded the organization get rid of the policy, EDGE reported.
Yahoo points out that Wahls says that Ryan's case is different because many scouts who are out are forced to leave the organization before they even have the chance to become an Eagle Scout.
"He is a case study of the detrimental effects this policy has on young men," Wahls said.
Wahls has launched another petition regarding to the BSA. This time, he hopes to get United Parcel Service to stop funding the organization, San Diego Gay & Lesbian News reports.
He said that in 2010, UPS donated nearly $167,000 to BSA, despite its anti-gay policy. Additionally, the company boosts that it received a perfect rating from the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.
"In today's world, we understand that diversity encompasses more than race and gender," UPS' website says. "It extends to the full myriad of issues ranging from ethnicity to sexual orientation to physical ability. Inclusiveness, respect and cooperation are core values that help drive the way we do business with our customers and suppliers - and strengthen our bonds with a multi-cultural community of friends and neighbors."
Wahls claims that the BSA's policy is "is inconsistent with how UPS views workplace equality and it is inconsistent with the Scout Law, which demands bravery, loyalty and kindness."
"UPS Foundation President Eduardo Martinez should know all too well how senseless and out-of-touch the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy is. Mr. Martinez serves as Chair of the Corporate Development Council for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and is a board member for The Metro Atlanta YMCA," Wahls said. "Both of these organizations welcome and benefit from embracing gay youth and leaders in their programming."
In September EDGE reported that Wahls persuaded Intel to stop funding the BSA. According to a report, the computer company gave the organization nearly $700,000 in volunteer matching grants in 2010.
"Intel made the right decision here, in order to live up to their corporate values of diversity, equality and individual liberty," said Wahls. "Companies that support the LGBT community simply can't be in the business of funding organizations that discriminate."