A California chapter of Boy Scouts of America took a major step Monday in announcing formal recommendation that Ryan Andresen--an openly gay 18-year-old--be awarded his Eagle Scout Honor.
The decision by the local leaders issues a direct challenge to national Boy Scout policies which prohibits the participation of gay scouts.
Andresen, who completed all the requirements to achieve the Eagle honor, was denied the award in October by his Troop 212 scoutmaster, NBC News reported. The Boy Scouts of America said at the time that Ryan was "no longer eligible for membership in Scouting" because he did not agree to the Scouting principle "Duty to God."
Andresen's mother, Karen, launched a Change.org petition, which to date, has nearly half a million signatures, appealing to John Fenoglio, the local scout executive, to grant her son his award.
"I want everyone to know that [the Eagle award] should be based on accomplishment, not your sexual orientation. Ryan entered Scouts when he was six years old and in no way knew what he was," said Karen told NBC. "I think right now the Scoutmaster is sending Ryan the message that he’s not a valued human being and I want Ryan to know that he is valued … and that people care about him.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer and California Lieutenant Gov. Gavin Newsom added their voices to those of 463,209 people who signed the petition on Change.org--and it paid off.
The Council approved an official Eagle Board of Review for Ryan in December, which sends the official recommendation for the Eagle award on to the national council, who must still approve it.
The Andresens posted a message of cautious celebration--titled "Victory"--on the petition page Monday.
The Boy Scouts of America has repeatedly come under fire for its ban on gay membership, most recently last year after an Eagle Scout in New York was dismissed as a camp counselor when he came out and a scoutmaster was removed from her position as her son's leader when the national organization discovered she was a lesbian.