The Boy Scouts of America's prohibition on gay scout leaders has been challenged by its own California chapter, after the division recommended an openly gay member be awarded the top rank of Eagle Scout.
"From what I understand, this has never happened before," commented Eric Andresen, father of the scout in question, Ryan Andresen, according to Reuters.
The California chapter made the decision to review Andresen's qualifications for Eagle Scout despite a scoutmaster refusing to sign off on his paperwork last year after the 18-year old came out as gay. Although the four-member board has formerly endorsed the young man's petition, which can be seen as a challenge to the Boy Scouts of America's stance of gay leaders, The Associated Press reported that a staff executive has decided not to forward the recommendation to the national organization, who would have been likely to reject it anyway.
"Ryan always has been the mentoring type, the big brother type. He saw this as not only an opportunity, but a responsibility to try to make change, and he has said it many times that he doesn't want any other Scout to have to go through this," Eric Andresen said. "It's just blatantly unfair."
The former boy scout has inspired more than 460,000 people across America to sign a petition launched by his mother on Change.org calling for the Boy Scouts to consider his petition to become an Eagle Scout.
The Boy Scouts of America has explained that the organization remains firm in its tradition to not accept gay leaders and that because of his sexual orientation, the young man does not meet the membership criteria.
"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," spokesman Deron Smith explained. "Therefore, he is not eligible to receive the rank of Eagle."
Andersen's father has said that at this point, their petition is not so much about his son getting the actual Eagle Scout membership, but about raising awareness for what they see is something that needs to change about the Boy Scouts.
"It's gotten to the point that getting the Eagle doesn't matter so much. It's the message that counts. It's the desire that no other Scout should ever have to go through this," said Eric Andresen.
A Nov. 2012 Gallup poll showed that Americans are mostly split in their feelings regarding the Boy Scout's stance on gay members. Sixty-nine percent of respondents to the poll say that gay and lesbians should be allowed to legally adopt children, while 52 percent said that openly gay applicants should not be allowed to serve as Boy Scout leaders.
Among the results, Democrats were more willing to see the Boy Scouts change their stance, as 60 percent voted that gay members should be allowed to serve as scouts, while only 26 percent of Republicans agreed. Independents were slightly more likely to support the traditional stance, with only 40 percent voting that gay members should be allowed to become scout leaders.