Ellen DeGeneres has awarded a teen who’s been refused his Eagle Award from the Boys Scouts of America (BSA) because he’s gay $20,000 towards his college education.
According to Ryan Andresen’s mother, he joined the Boy Scouts when he was six years old, and since then, he’s dreamed of earning his Eagle award – the highest rank in the Boy Scouts.
A scout gets his Eagle by earning many badges, completing all lower Scout rank requirements, and carrying out an approved final project.
For that project, Andresen, now a 17-year-old senior in high school, decided to build a “Tolerance Wall” for his school, to show bully victims – like himself – that they are not alone. He worked with other students to amass a wall of 288 unique tiles, all illustrating acts of kindness.
However, when leadership in Troop 212 in the San Francisco Bay Area found out that Andresen was openly-gay, the Scoutmaster refused to sign the official paperwork designating Andresen as an Eagle Scout, despite the fact that he completed all of the requirements.
Almost 400,000 people have signed a petition started by Andresen’s mother calling on Troop 212 “to reject the Boy Scouts of America’s discriminatory anti-gay policy and to give Ryan Andresen the Eagle award he’s earned”.
Around 170 Eagle Scouts have also pledged to send Andresen their Eagle award pins, including 50 scouts from his own troop, to show their support for the young man.
This week, Andresen appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show where the talk show host gave him $20,000 for him to use towards his education.
“I think you’re an amazing young man,” DeGeneres told Andresen who explained that being an Eagle Scout had “pretty much been a lifelong dream…”
He went on to say: “I hope people understand that discrimination is not okay. The Boys Scouts is very unique and has a lot of opportunities that nothing else will grant you in your entire whole life… and I don’t think it’s fair that not everybody has the opportunity to go through it…”
Despite massive pressure to change, including a call to do so by President Obama, the BSA has refused to reconsider its policy of barring gay and lesbian members and leaders from the organisation.
Watch Ryan Andresen on the Ellen DeGeneres show below.