The same Boy Scout council that last year expelled a gay teen who was trying to earn Eagle status has now adopted new guidelines that will be the cornerstone of a push to get the Boy Scouts of America to adopt a nationwide nondiscrimination policy in May.
Ryan Andresen, 18, of Moraga, was expelled from Scouting last fall after he told his scoutmaster that he objected to the organization's "Duty to God" requirement and that he is gay. He then appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," sharing his story of how he was initially told that his sexual orientation wouldn't be an obstacle.
Six months later, a petition supporting Andresen's quest to attain Eagle rank, posted online days before his expulsion in October, has gained the support of more than 475,000 people.
The Mt. Diablo-Silverado Boy Scout Council this week released results of a survey that found 65 percent of those who answered want to change the current membership policy that bans gays. Moreover, among Scouts, 81 percent supported LGBT youth and leader involvement in Scouting, according to the council's Scout Executive, John Fenoglio.
"After months of rejection under the Boy Scouts of America's hurtful anti-gay policy, it's certainly encouraging to see an overwhelming majority of our Scouting community standing with Ryan," said Eric Andresen. "I truly hope that these are more than just words on paper, and that the Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council makes sure their membership is heard at the National Council Meeting this May."
Eric Andresen said he is keeping his son out of the spotlight. "The whole experience has been too much for him,'' he said in an email.
Fenoglio said the local council does not know the exact resolution that will be presented at the Scouts' National Council in May.
"We will advocate for a change of the policy, based on the resolution when it is presented," he said.
The move comes as the Boy Scouts of America, faced with an escalating backlash against their ban on gays, have distributed a questionnaire to more 1.1 million adult scouts, parents, volunteers and alumni. The survey presents fictional situations to determine where Scouting's membership falls on questions of homosexuality, gays camping with children and gays in church leadership.
The information from councils nationwide will be presented to the executive officers in April. They will then develop a resolution to be voted on by the Scouts' National Council in May, said Boy Scouts of America spokesman Deron Smith.
While his local council's backing of a new membership policy doesn't guarantee Ryan Andresen will receive his Eagle rank, the move by his home Scouting council is a move in the right direction, said Scouts for Equality founder Zach Wahls.
"(The) announcement is just a piece of all the incredible news we're starting to hear from all across the country," said Wahls. "There are just 65 days until the May vote, and Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council has shown what's possible when we come together in friendly, courteous conversation."