Ryan Andresen was in "total shock" when his Scoutmaster informed him he would not be awarding him the rank of Eagle Scout — the Boy Scouts highest honor — because he was openly gay.
"He had been telling me all along that we'd get by the gay thing," Andresen, 17, told Yahoo News. "It was by far the biggest goal of my life. It's totally devastating."
Andresen spent the past 12 years earning enough merit badges to qualify for Eagle Scout, and recently completed his service project — ironically, an anti-bullying "tolerance wall" he worked on with area schoolchildren.
"I want everyone to know that [the Eagle award] should be based on accomplishment, not your sexual orientation," Andresen's mother, Karen, told NBC News. "Ryan entered Scouts when he was six years old and in no way knew what he was. I think right now the Scoutmaster is sending Ryan the message that he's not a valued human being and I want Ryan to know that he is valued … and that people care about him."
Boy Scouts spokesperson Deron Smith is definitely not one of those people.
In a statement to the press, Smith said Andresen's coming out last July was not the only disqualifying factor — he also "proactively notified his unit leadership and Eagle Scout Counselor that he does not agree to Scouting's principle of 'Duty to God.'"
Smith said the BSA "did not proactively ask for this information," but once it was received, forced the Scouts to kick Andresen out of the organization entirely.
Zach Wahls, an outspoken gay rights activist and an Eagle Scout, called Andresen's case "unique," as most gay scouts never make it this far before being shoved out. "He is a case study of the detrimental effects this policy has on young men," Wahls told Yahoo.
Andresen and his mom hope a Change.org petition with nearly 150,000 signatures will help persuade the BSA to change its mind.
But time is running out: Eagle Scout badges can only be earned before the age of 18, and Andresen's birthday is in three days.
[photo via NBC News]