ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - A review board for a California chapter of the Boy Scouts of America has challenged the national organization by recommending that an openly gay former Scout be awarded the top rank of Eagle.
Bonnie Hazarabedian, who chaired the Boy Scout district review board that signed off on Ryan Andresen’s Eagle scout application, said the recommendation was sent to the local Boy Scout chapter to be forwarded to the national headquarters for final approval.
“From what I understand, this has never happened before,” Ryan’s father, Eric Andresen, told Reuters.
However, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, Deron Smith, said the review board’s recommendation never reached the national headquarters because it was stopped by the chief executive of Ryan’s local Mount Diablo Silverado Boy Scout council.
Andresen’s Boy Scout membership was revoked last year and Smith said he remained ineligible for the Eagle award.
“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. Therefore, he is not eligible to receive the rank of Eagle,” Smith said in an email to Reuters.
Ryan, 18, and his parents drew national attention in October after his Scoutmaster refused to sign his Eagle scout application because of his sexual orientation.
More than 462,000 people subsequently signed the Andresens’ petitions at Change.org calling on the Scoutmaster to sign. Meanwhile, the Andresens sent Ryan’s application to the review board and Hazarabedian told Reuters she acted on it because it was filed before his ejection from the Boy Scouts.
“I don’t think sexual orientation should enter into why a Scout is a Scout, or whether they are Eagle material,” said Hazarabedian. “We felt without a doubt he deserved that rank.”
Andresen’s father, who was a Boy Scout leader until his son was ejected, said the family was trying to send a message.
“It’s the desire that no other Scout should ever have to go through this,” Eric Andresen said.
Hazarabedian called the Scouts’ anti-gay policy “something out of the Dark Ages.”
In 1981 when Hazarabedian was a teenager, her friend’s brother Tim Curran, a gay Eagle Scout, was the plaintiff in what became the landmark case in California upholding the right of the Boy Scouts, and private organizations in general, to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.
Hazarabedian said she recalls making posters and signing petitions in support of Curran and thinking, “By the time I have a son old enough to be a Scout, that will be years from now, they will have fixed this by then, they’ll be more tolerant by then. But here we are, 2013, and the same thing is going on.”
Ryan, who became something of a celebrity with national television appearances and strangers asking to be photographed with him, wants to focus on his last year of high school, his father said.
“We assume someday BSA will (change), and maybe at that time Ryan can retroactively get his Eagle award,” he said.
Editing by Jane Sutton, Nick Zieminski and Claudia Parsons