A Boy Scout just days away from his 18th birthday has been denied the organization's highest award after revealing he is gay.
The Boy Scouts of America kicked Ryan Andresen, who has been involved in the Scouts for 12 years, out of the organization after he came out to his friends and family as gay. Andresen had met all the requirements for receiving the prestigious Eagle Award, but the scoutmaster of San Francisco-area Troop 212 refused to sign off on the paperwork designating Andresen an Eagle Scout because of his sexual orientation.
Now, more than 150,000 people have signed a petition on Andresen's behalf, urging the BSA to award him the Eagle badge.
"It hurts me so much to watch Ryan suffer for being who he is, because to me, he's perfect," wrote Ryan's mother, Karen Andresen.
A senior in high school, Andresen is an honor student and came out in July. In order to receive the rank of Eagle, Scouts must complete a number of tasks, including a final approved project. For Andresen, who has been the victim of bullying, he created a "Tolerance Wall" at his high school that documented 288 acts of kindness.
According to Change.org, Andresen came out to his fellow Scouts in a letter responding to a case of bullying against another member of the troop. In the letter, Andresen revealed his sexual orientation and discussed the negative effects bullying has 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," said 49-year-old Karen Andresen, a mother of three. "Now the Boy Scouts are punishing him for that."
In a statement provided to NBC News, BSA spokesman Deron Smith said Andresen had "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."
The petition is the latest against the BSA's discriminatory ban on gay members and leaders.
In July, the the 102-year-old BSA reaffirmed a membership ban on "individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals."
[Photo: Ryan Andresen (Courtesy of Change.org).]