Karen Andresen started her Change.org after leaders in Boy Scout Troop 212 in San Francisco told her son Ryan that he’d be refused the rank of Eagle Scout after he came out as gay in an effort to address bullying. Ryan had completed all of his requirements to become an Eagle Scout, says his mom, even completing a capstone project at a local middle school where he helped construct a “Tolerance Wall.” But he was told last week by his troop leader that because of his sexual orientation, he would be denied his Eagle Scout award. The news came just a few days before Ryan turned 18.
“It breaks my heart to watch Ryan suffer for being who he is, because to me, he’s perfect,” says Karen. “Ryan has worked for nearly 12 years to become an Eagle Scout, and nothing would make him more proud than earning this well-deserved distinction. I can’t believe the leaders in Ryan’s Boy Scout troop would punish him like this, especially after all Ryan has done to serve his community and to combat bullying.”
Ryan, who endured bullying as a teen from fellow scouts in his troop, recently came out in a letter inspired as a response to a bullying incident faced by a fellow scout. Ryan talked about the effects that bullying had on him, including depression and self-harm.
“My son showed incredible courage in telling his story, so that other Scouts don’t have to face the type of bullying and harassment he faced. Now the Boy Scouts are punishing him for that,” says his mom. “Luckily, thousands of people are now standing up and supporting my son in hopes that Troop 212 will do the right thing, and give him his Eagle Scout designation. And I’ll be right by his side until we convince the Boy Scouts to stop this discrimination.”
The Boy Scouts of America have been under fire this year over a long-held policy that discriminates against gay scouts and leaders. Scores of Boy Scout troops and families around the country have urged the organization to change its policies, and a new organization, Scouts For Equality, which was founded by Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, is calling for an end to the anti-gay ban.
Earlier this year, a mom in Ohio named Jennifer Tyrrell rallied hundreds of thousands to support her after she was removed as the den leader of her seven-year-old son’s Cub Scout pack because of her sexual orientation. And business leaders like James Turley, CEO of Ernst & Young, and Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T – both members of the Boy Scouts of America’s Board of Directors – have called for a change to the antiquated and discriminatory BSA policy.