SEN. BOXER, LT. GOV. NEWSOM, AND 32 STATE LEGISLATORS RALLY BEHIND GAY SCOUT DENIED EAGLE AWARD
- A mother's Change.org campaign asking the Boy Scouts to award her gay son the rank of Eagle Scout gains significant momentum as several high-profile political leaders speak out in support;
- Ryan Andresen, an 18-year-old Boy Scout who was denied his Eagle award because of his sexual orientation, has garnered the support of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, and 32 California state legislators who have joined a sign-on letter started by State Senator Leland Yee.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- The campaign in support of Ryan Andresen, a gay Boy Scout who was kicked out of his local Boy Scout troop and denied his Eagle Scout Award because of his sexual orientation, has gained significant momentum with several high-profile political leaders speaking out in support of Ryan and his effort to achieve the Boy Scouts' highest rank.
Ryan's mother, Karen Andresen, whose petition on Change.org has attracted more than 400,000 signatures urging the Boy Scouts not to deny Ryan his Eagle Award, has recently received the public support of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, and 32 California state legislators who have joined a sign-on letter started by State Senator Leland Yee.
This week, Lt. Governor Newsom, a former Scout, sent a letter to the Boy Scouts on Ryan's behalf. "In defending this hurtful and discriminatory policy barring gay youth and leaders, the Boy Scouts of America are simply standing on the wrong side of history. And in doing so, the Boy Scouts are hurting the very people that you aim to serve: the young men who participate in your programs," said Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom. "Scout leaders who are speaking out against this hurtful policy inspire me. I urge the Mt. Diablo Silverado Council to follow the brave precedent established by other local councils by ending anti-discriminatory practices and approve the Eagle Scout award Ryan so justly deserves."
Newsom's support follows an aggressive sign-on letter campaign of 32 state legislators, orchestrated by California State Senator Leland Yee. The letter, addressed to Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council Scout Executive John Fenoglio and Boy Scouts of America President Wayne Perry, calls on the Boy Scouts to honor Andresen's application to obtain the rank of Eagle Scout and to end the long-standing policy barring gay youth and leaders.
"We ask that Ryan Andresen receive the honor that he has rightfully earned. To deny him the title of Eagle Scout denigrates his efforts, and cheapens the title for his fellow Eagles. To hold him to a different standard, to say he is unworthy of this honor because of his sexual orientation is as offensive and un-American as it would be to do so because of the color of his skin," writes Senator Yee and the 32 legislators who support his sign-on letter. "We worry that if the Boy Scouts of America continues these policies, this organization will be left behind as a relic of the past and future generations will lose an opportunity to learn, grow, and become responsible and conscientious citizens."
Ryan has also received the support of his U.S. Senator, Barbara Boxer, who wrote to Ryan saying:
"I recently read about your story and wanted to commend you for your 12 years of service to your community, as well as your determination to stand up for yourself and others against bullying and discrimination. Your perseverance to raise awareness against bullying is commendable. I admire your courage to stand up for who you are, as well as the bravery you have demonstrated in the face of intolerance."
Ryan's mother Karen Andresen, who launched the petition to get Ryan his Eagle award, says the outpouring of support has been overwhelming, but she believes it's helping Ryan's campaign and the larger movement to end the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy.
"As a mother, it's been incredibly hard to watch Ryan be rejected by the Boy Scouts. But knowing that so many people are standing with us in this campaign makes it a little easier and definitely gives me hope for the future," said Karen. "Whether you're an elected official from Washington, DC, a celebrity from Hollywood, or one of the more than 400,000 people who have signed my petition, please know that your voice is making a difference."
Ryan echoed his mother's appreciation for the support his family has received and was excited about the progress he's seeing within the Scouting community.
"Just this week, UPS said they will no longer give money to the Boy Scouts while the anti-gay policy is in place. That's huge!" Ryan said. "I really hope the Boy Scouts realize that this is just the beginning. Their decision to uphold this awful policy doesn't just hurt gay Scouts like me, but it hurts the entire Scouting community. But I know that if enough of us speak out, we can change this."
This week, UPS, a large corporate donor of the Boy Scouts of America, confirmed with GLAAD that they had updated their giving policy and would no longer fund organizations that discriminate, including the Boy Scouts of America. Intel made a similar announcement just one month prior. Both Intel and UPS had been targets of online campaigns waged by Eagle Scout Zach Wahls, founder of the organization Scouts for Equality. UPS and Intel join the CEOs of two other major companies -- AT&T and Ernst & Young -- in calling for an end to the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policies.
After sharing their story on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Anderson Cooper 360, Ryan and his parents delivered more than 400,000 petition signatures to the Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council, where they met with Scout leaders and offered to help the council stand up against the national anti-gay policy. According to the Andresens, the council is currently reviewing the petition signatures and collecting feedback from the community.
View live signature totals from Karen Andresen's petition: here
View U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer's Letter of Support: here
View State Senator Leland Yee's Sign-On Letter supported by 32 state legislators: here