Ryan Andresen, a gay Californian teen, was denied an Eagle Scout badge earlier this month despite having completed every task necessary to achieve the award. Now, a fellow Eagle Scout across the country is planning to send him his badge in a show of solidarity.
Dr. Andy Zerbinopoulos of Jacksonville, Fla., told First Coast News that he planned to send Andresen his Eagle Scout award. “If I can make him feel like he has some support out there, it’s worth it to me to send him a piece of [metal],” he said. Zerbinopoulos has held his medal since 1996.
According to a statement from the Boy Scouts of America, Andresen was notified that “he is no longer eligible for membership in Scouting” because of his sexual orientation, which the BSA says does not align with the organization’s principle of “Duty to God.”
Andresen’s parents are fighting back. In a petition posted to Change.org, Karen Andresen wrote that her son has been involved with Boy Scouts since he was 6 years old. “When leadership in Troop 212 (San Francisco Bay Area) found out that Ryan was gay, the Scoutmaster said he refused to sign the official paperwork designating Ryan as an Eagle Scout, despite the fact that Ryan completed all of his requirements,” she adds.
Since the Boy Scouts of America reaffirmed their anti-gay policy, many Eagle Scouts have chosen to return their awards in protest. In an interview with msnbc.com back in August, Rev. Ken Jones of Yakima, Wash., said he planned to send his award back to the BSA after nearly 35 years of affiliation with the organization.
“When I look back on that, it fees like the policy that they [the BSA] have about exclusion is something that really encourages kids to participate in that kind of bullying,” Jones said.
Hundreds of Scouts have since done the same, sharing their letters and stories online.