MORAGA -- Supporters of a gay former Boy Scout attempting to gain Eagle rank were claiming victory Tuesday, but scouting officials said that little had changed and that the Moraga teen's expulsion from the organization remained in effect.
Ryan Andresen, 18, of Moraga, was expelled from Scouting last year after he informed his scoutmaster that he objected to the organization's "Duty to God" requirement and that he was gay.
A petition supporting Andresen's quest to attain Eagle rank, posted online days before his expulsion in October, has gained the support of almost 500,000 people, including Sen. Barbara Boxer and several dozen state legislators.
An Eagle Board of Review -- a group of volunteers who weigh a Scout's request for Eagle status -- agreed to hear Andresen's application Dec. 19. After interviewing Ryan about his Scouting history and faith, and reviewing his Eagle project -- a "tolerance wall" art project done with the help of local elementary school students -- the panel unanimously endorsed the teen and forwarded his application to the Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council on Dec. 31.
Supporters took that recommendation as a victory and praised Andresen's resilience. A statement from Change.org said that the council had "approved" Andresen's application and that it would be forwarded to the national organization, headquartered in Texas, for final approval.
Politicians including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, sent out public messages congratulating Andresen on his victory.
However, John Fenoglio, scout executive for the Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council, said Tuesday morning that he had ruled that Andresen's submission was still ineligible and would not be forwarded to the national organization for final approval.
Fenoglio said there was no further venue of appeal for Andresen. Ryan Andresen's father, Eric, said that the national organization, which typically approves almost all applications forwarded, was very likely to reject Ryan's request if given the chance but that not being allowed to bring more focus on the national level was still a disappointment.
Deron Smith, director of public relations for the Boy Scouts of America, said Tuesday that "the Eagle application was forwarded ... 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. Therefore, he is not eligible to receive the rank of Eagle."
Ryan Andresen could not be reached for comment Tuesday. His father, Eric, said that he was studying for finals and that though he still supports the movement to get the Scouts to reverse their anti-gay stance, the constant publicity had worn on him.
In a statement provided by Change.org, which hosts the online petition, Ryan said that "I want other gay Scouts to know ... that this win is for you. It's been a wild and exhausting ride. I'm really looking forward to life getting back to normal."