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Teenage Boy Scout Denied Organization's Top Rank Because He's Gay

Ryan Andresen spent 12 years as a Boy Scout. Now that he's 17 and about to graduate from high school, he completed the final requirement to receive the Eagle Scout award, which signifies the highest rank in the organization.

Except, according to his mother, Karen, when he submitted the paperwork, the scoutmaster for Troop 212 in the San Francisco Bay Area told him he could not give him the Eagle Scout honor because Andresen is gay.

His mother has started an online petition to protest the decision, and it's already gathered 143,877 electronic signatures.

"It hurts me so much to watch Ryan suffer for being who he is, because to me, he's perfect," Karen wrote on the petition. "Ryan has worked for nearly 12 years to become an Eagle Scout, and nothing would make him more proud than earning that well-deserved distinction."

The Boy Scouts of America sent a statement to several news organizations, including ABC, in which they say they didn't inquire about Ryan's sexual orientation.

"This scout proactively notified his unit leadership and Eagle Scout counselor that he does not agree to scouting's principle of 'Duty to God' and does not meet scouting's membership standard on sexual orientation," Deron Smith, a spokesman for the organization said in a statement. "Agreeing to do one's 'Duty to God' is a part of the scout Oath and Law and a requirement of achieving the Eagle Scout rank."

In an interview with Yahoo! News, Ryan said that his scoutmaster knew he was gay.

"He had been telling me all along that we'd get by the gay thing," Ryan told Yahoo News. "It was by far the biggest goal of my life. It's totally devastating."

ABC News also reports that Ryan said that for most of his life, he has been the victim of bullying. He said he was called names like "Tinkerbell" at summer camp, so for his final Boy Scout project he addressed that issue by making a "tolerance wall."

As we've reported, the Boy Scouts have had a long-standing policy that excludes those who are openly gay. In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the organization's right to do that. Earlier this summer, and much to the dismay of many gay rights activists, the Boy Scouts reaffirmed their policy of excluding homosexuals.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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