A Moraga teen who was denied the opportunity of becoming an Eagle Scout because he came out publicly as gay, appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" Wednesday to speak of his experience and the outpouring of support he has since received.
Though Ryan Andresen - a senior in high school who joined the Boy Scouts of America 12 years ago - had completed all of the requirements to achieve Eagle Scout status, he was deemed ineligible to receive the award from his troop, Troop 212, because of his sexual orientation.
During his televised appearance, Andresen spoke of the bullying he had experienced from his peers growing up, and how those experiences ultimately lead to his final project to earn his Eagle Scout Pin - the highest rank in the boy scouts: Andresen built a "Tolerance Wall" at his sister's middle school using tiled images featuring acts of kindness created by local elementary students to show bully victims, like himself, that they are not alone.
"I hope people understand discrimination is not OK," Andresen told DeGeneres, adding that he felt "so blessed" to have been a Boy Scout and that the organization offers opportunities "like nothing else will ever grant you in your whole entire life."
"I don’t think its fair that not everyone gets the opportunity to go through it," Andresen said.
DeGeneres highlighted how his actions have inspired other scouting groups around the country to stand up and reject the Boy Scout's discriminatory policy and how Matthew Kimble, a former member of Andresen's troop, has started an organization called Good Turn to show his support.
"He was in the closet when he got his pin," Andresen said of Kimble, who has enlisted other Eagle Scouts to send Andresen their pins in solidarity. "So far over 170 have pledged to send me their Eagle pins and 50 of them are from my own troop," Andresen said.
Karen Andresen, Ryan's mother, also started an online petition at Change.org demanding the Boy Scouts of America to allow her son to become an Eagle Scout. The petition, which had nearly 400,000 signatures at the time of Andresen's "Ellen" appearance, calls on Boy Scout leaders to reject the national organization's anti-gay policy.
An honor student and head of the Gay/Lesbian club at school, Andresen is hoping to attend the University of San Francisco next year. So impressed with teen's courage in standing up for what he believes in, the talk show host presented him with a $20,000 check to help pay for college.