05:42 - Source: CNN
Gay teen fights for Eagle Scout rank

Story highlights

Ryan Andresen, 18, has been a Scout since 6

Last year, he came out as gay and built a "tolerance wall" as a Scout project

He is waging a national campaign for gay Eagle Scouts

A Scout council denies his Eagle application because of ban on "avowed homosexuals"

CNN —  

A gay California Boy Scout’s application for Eagle rank was rejected by a Scout council, an official with the organization said Tuesday.

In response, the Scout’s parents pledged to press their son’s national campaign for gay Scouts to be eligible for Eagle status.

John Fenoglio, Scout executive for the Mount Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council, said the Eagle rank application from Ryan Andresen of Moraga, California, wasn’t approved because of “membership standards,” specifically “duty to God, avowed homosexuality, and the fact that he is now over 18 years of age.”

Contrary to some media accounts, Andresen’s application wasn’t approved by the local council in Contra Costa County, nor was it submitted to the Boy Scouts’ national office, Fenoglio told CNN.

The teen’s father, Eric Andresen, said his son, a high school senior, wasn’t available for comment Tuesday because he’s studying for exams and preparing college applications.

“It’s pretty upsetting, and it’s wrong,” the father said of the council’s decision. “The whole thing has been wrong since day one.

Scouting goes through a rough patch

“It’s politics now, and it’s just ridiculous,” he continued.

The Boy Scouts of America policy does “not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA,” the group’s website says.

Karen Andresen, the Scout’s mother, “is trying to go back to being a mom,” the father said. “It’s pretty overwhelming for all of us.”

In his Eagle Scout application process, Ryan Andresen was recently interviewed by a Scout review board that included Bonnie Hazarabedian, the volunteer district advancement chairwoman.

That board approved Ryan Andresen’s application, which then forwarded it to the Mount Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council for review, Hazarabedian said.

When Hazarabedian passed along the application to Fenoglio, he indicated to her that Andresen’s Eagle Scout application would be approved and sent to the national council for final approval, Hazarabedian said in a statement.

But that didn’t happen, she said.

“Our community is standing behind Ryan Andresen,” Hazarabedian said. “When I dropped off Ryan’s unanimously approved Eagle Board of Review application and report on December 31, Mr. Fenoglio looked me in the eyes, patted the stack of papers, and said, ‘We’ll sign it and send it on, but can’t promise what will happen from there.’

“I’m totally perplexed by this statement from Scout Executive Fenoglio, a man I greatly respect and admire,” Hazarabedian said about the local council’s rejection.

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Fenoglio couldn’t be immediately reached for a comment about Hazarabedian’s statement.

Boys Scout national spokesman Deron Smith said that Ryan Andresen’s application didn’t meet the group’s standards.

“The Eagle application was forwarded, by a volunteer, to the local council but it was not approved because this young man proactively stated that he does not agree to Scouting’s principle of ‘Duty to God’ and does not meet Scouting’s membership requirements,” Smith said. “Therefore, he is not eligible to receive the rank of Eagle.”

Ryan Andresen, 18, was denied Eagle rank last year after coming out as gay, said the gay rights advocacy group GLAAD, which has been campaigning on behalf of Andresen.

A Boy Scout for many years, Ryan Andresen also completed an anti-bullying project, GLAAD said.

His mother has been collecting signatures on a Change.org petition calling upon the Boy Scout to grant her son Eagle rank. Her son has been in Scouting since 6 and has long dreamed of becoming an Eagle Scout, the mother said in the online petition.

Ryan Andresen built a “tolerance wall” made out of 288 unique tiles at his school and was assisted by elementary students, his mother said. The wall shows that bully victims aren’t alone.

“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,” the mother said in the online petition, which has collected more than 450,000 signatures. “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.”

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