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Ryan Andresen, a 17-year-old California boy who has spent 12 years as a Boy Scout, has graduated high school and is ready to receive the organization's top badge, the Eagle Scout. However, he and his mother Karen have said that he has been denied the badge because he’s gay.
According to NPR, Karen said that when he sent his paperwork to the scoutmaster of Troop 212, they would not honor it. So, she went to Change.org to create a petition to get the Boy Scouts to give him the badge. The petition is already up to almost 150,000 signatures.
“It hurts me so much to watch Ryan suffer for being who he is, because to me, he's perfect. Ryan has worked for nearly 12 years to become an Eagle Scout, and nothing would make him more proud than earning that well-deserved distinction,” Karen wrote. “I hope that if enough people come together, we can convince my son's troop leaders to help him feel proud of who he is and all he's accomplished.”
Ryan was bullied, which inspired him to make a “tolerance wall” for his project. To help his son deal with the bullying, Ryan’s father joined the troop. The scoutmaster told him that he could not sign off on his son’s project just because he was gay and his father resigned “on the spot,” reports ABC News.
The Boy Scouts of America responded to the petition in a statement to ABC News. “This scout proactively 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. Agreeing to do one's 'Duty to God' is a part of the scout Oath and Law and a requirement of achieving the Eagle Scout rank,” a spokesman said.
Ryan told ABC that the scoutmaster who refused to sign off, Rainer Del Valle, had actually encouraged him to return to the scouts after being bullied and do the project. “He was in love with my project,” Ryan said.
“He was he was leading me on the whole time,” Ryan added, saying that Del Valle was pressured to not approve the project. “He still hasn't had the courage to tell me himself. I am sad and confused over the whole thing...He told my Dad to tell me. I haven't heard from him since.”
The Boy Scouts of America has had a long-standing policy of not allowing gay leaders and scouts. In 2000, the Supreme Court said that it could continue to do so, since it is a private organization. This summer, the organization would not back down from the policy and many returned their badges in protest.