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The Boy Scouts of America is scheduled to decide on May 24, 2013 whether to alter its long-standing ban on gay scouts and leaders. The proposal to be put before the roughly 1400 voting members of the BSA National Council would allow the participation of gay scouts, but not gay adult leaders. On the eve of this debate, the father of bullied gay scout Ryan Andresen has spoken out in a video made by Equality California.
Ryan Andresen came to national attention in October 2012, when it was revealed that he had been denied an Eagle Scout pin because he is gay. Despite having completed all the requirements for the award, leaders of Andresen's Boy Scout troop refused to grant him the Eagle Scout award.
In protest, Andresen's father resigned as assistant Scoutmaster of his son's troop and his mother launched a change.org petition asking that the Boy Scouts of America's discriminatory policy be changed and that her son be given the award that he earned. The petition received almost 500,000 signatures.
From his appearances on television news shows and on the Ellen Show, it became apparent that Ryan Andresen is an articulate and self-confident young man committed to making change in the world.
However, he was not always like that. In fact, as a profile by Peter Crooks in the San Francisco East Bay magazine Diablo aptly entitled "Excluded" revealed, he is a survivor of egregious bullying.
When he was a fifth-grader, Andresen joined Boy Scout Troop 212, which is sponsored by the Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church. Soon after joining, he was tormented at the troop's annual summer camp week. In a particularly cruel hazing ritual, called Name Night, the scouts smeared "faggot" in charcoal on his sweatshirt and made him wear it.
When he finally told his parents about the incident, they were suitably horrified, but the bullying continued not only at Moraga Valley Presbyterian Church, but also at his middle school. By the time he entered high school, Andresen felt like an outcast. He ultimately transferred to a private school in Berkeley, where he has thrived.
Although he wanted to give up scouting, Andresen decided to use it as a means of responding to the bullying he had experienced. Thus, he chose as his Eagle Scout project building a "tolerance wall" at the very middle school at which his life was made so miserable by bullies.
Andresen's parents have been admirably supportive of their son. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Eric Andresen has spoken out against the bullying and discrimination experienced by Ryan.
In a video made for Equality California, Eric Andresen not only explains the pain his family has endured as a result of the Boy Scouts' treatment of his son, but he also endorses the Youth Equality Act now pending in the California legislature. This bill would require that nonprofit youth organizations that receive special state tax privileges comply with California's nondiscrimination laws. Specifically, the bill revokes the special tax status awarded to nonprofit youth organizations like the Boy Scouts should they violate California's nondiscrimination laws.
Below is Eric Andresen's video
In the video below, Ryan Andresen and his mother discuss the denial of his Eagle Badge with Anderson Cooper.