The Mount Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council in California approved gay scout Ryan Andresen's Eagle badge application, despite the Boy Scouts of America's national ban on gay scouts and leaders. The application now heads to the BSA national offices for final approval.
Ryan was refused the Eagle status last year after coming out as gay. Because the BSA has upheld its discriminatory ban, 18-year-old Ryan was told he was ineligible for the BSA's highest honor, despite years of scouting and his completion of an anti-bullying project. In response, Ryan's mom, Karen Andresen, started a Change.org petition that has since received more than 450,000 signatures calling for her son to be given the same opportunities as other Boy Scouts.
“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,” said Ryan Andresen. “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.”
On December 19, local Boy Scout leaders granted Ryan an official Eagle Board of Review and today Reuters reports that the Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council approved his application for the rank of Eagle Scout. Ryan’s application will now be forwarded to the national organization for final approval.
"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,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick. “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 part of GLAAD's ongoing work toward ending the BSA's anti-LGBT policy, GLAAD worked with Change.org and Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls to share Ryan's story in the media. Ryan has continued to be an advocate for equality, standing up for LGBT youth and against bullying with GLAAD by going purple on Spirit Day, and being honored by the Califronia Assembly for his work against discrimination.
Ryan's mom Karen spoke out after today's news:
“I’m just so incredibly happy for Ryan. He’s worked so hard for this honor, 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 Boy Scouts of America decide to do with his application, this victory makes it all worth it, and gives me so much hope for the future of the organization.”
Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls, who initially helped Karen launch her petition on Change.org, said in a Change.org press statement that 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. The American Medical Association, corporate and political leaders, and countless Scouting communities across the country have spoken out against the dangers of policies that exclude gay youth and leaders. It’s time for the BSA to listen. More than 50 additional Change.org petitions have been launched by Scouts and Scout leaders, urging local councils to do what Ryan’s council did, and ignore the national anti-gay policy. Change is coming, council by council, community by community."
A national dialogue about the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy was sparked in 2012 when GLAAD shared the story of Ohio mom Jennifer Tyrrell, who was ousted from her son Cruz's Boy Scout troop because she is gay. A Change.org petition supporting Jennifer garnered more than 300,000 signatures, which she hand-delivered to the Boy Scouts of America headquarters with GLAAD. Since then, more and more individual scouts, local scout troops, entire scout councils, national leaders, celebrities, organizations and companies who spoken out against the BSA's anti-LGBT ban. The Mount Diablo-Silverado Council joins the growing voice against the BSA's discriminatory ban by supporting an openly gay Scout.