Newsom, Lawmakers Pen Letters Supporting Gay Boy Scout Booted From His Troop
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a former Webelos Scout, along with 32 other legislators, including U.S. Sens Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, have written their own very blunt letters to the Boy Scouts of America on Ryan's behalf.
Here's a snippet from Newsom's letter:
"In defending this hurtful and discriminatory policy barring gay youth and leaders, the Boy Scouts of America are simply standing on the wrong side of history. And in doing so, the Boy Scouts are hurting the very people that you aim to serve: the young men who participate in your programs," Newsom wrote. "Scout leaders who are speaking out against this hurtful policy inspire me. I urge the Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council to follow the brave precedent established by other local councils by ending anti-discriminatory practices and approve the Eagle Scout award Ryan so justly deserves."
Ryan's mother, Karen Andresen, started a petition in September after her son was booted from his troop because he is gay. The petition on Change.org has attracted more than 400,000 signatures urging the Boy Scouts not to deny Ryan his Eagle Award.
In addition to Newsom's letter, 32 state legislators started their own aggressive letter-writing campaign, initiated by California state Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco). The letter, addressed to Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council Scout Executive John Fenoglio and Boy Scouts of America President Wayne Perry, calls on the Boy Scouts to honor Andresen's application to obtain the rank of Eagle Scout and to end the long-standing policy barring gay youth and leaders.
According to the group letter:
To deny him the title of Eagle Scout denigrates his efforts, and cheapens the title for his fellow Eagles. To hold him to a different standard, to say he is unworthy of this honor because of his sexual orientation is as offensive and un-American as it would be to do so because of the color of his skin. We worry that if the Boy Scouts of America continues these policies, this organization will be left behind as a relic of the past and future generations will lose an opportunity to learn, grow, and become responsible and conscientious citizens.
Ryan's mother says the outpouring of support has been "overwhelming," and she believes it's helping the larger movement to end the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policy.
"As a mother, it's been incredibly hard to watch Ryan be rejected by the Boy Scouts. But knowing that so many people are standing with us in this campaign makes it a little easier and definitely gives me hope for the future," Karen said in a statement. "Whether you're an elected official from Washington, DC, a celebrity from Hollywood, or one of the more than 400,000 people who have signed my petition, please know that your voice is making a difference."
Ryan said he was pretty stoked himself to see how this campaign is truly making a change. This week, UPS, a large corporate donor of the Boy Scouts of America, confirmed with GLAAD that it would no longer fund organizations that discriminate, including the Boy Scouts of America. Intel made a similar pledge just one month prior.
"That's huge!" Ryan said. "I really hope the Boy Scouts realize that this is just the beginning. Their decision to uphold this awful policy doesn't just hurt gay Scouts like me, but it hurts the entire Scouting community. But I know that if enough of us speak out, we can change this."
Last month, Ryan shared his story on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Anderson Cooper 360, before delivering more than 400,000 petition signatures to the Mt. Diablo-Silverado Council. According to the Andresens, the council is currently reviewing the petition signatures and collecting feedback from the community.