(NEW YORK) — Ryan Andresen has spent a decade completing the requirements for the coveted Eagle Scout award, and now that he is just about to turn 18 — the cut-off date for attaining the highest honor — his Boy Scout troop won’t approve it because he is gay.
His project, a “tolerance wall,” was inspired by the years of hazing he endured in middle school in Moraga, Calif., and later at Boy Scout summer camp, where his nicknames were “Tinkerbell” and “faggot.”
“I had I had no idea what gay was at that point,” said Andresen, who described hazing that included, among other rituals, having the word “fag” written in charcoal across his chest.
“It was really embarrassing and humiliating,” he said. “And I was terrified.”
His mom, Karen Andresen, was so upset by the troops’ decision that she posted a petition on Change.org that has topped more than 22,000 signatures.
“It was not his idea, it was mine,” she said.
In the petition, Karen Andresen cited the merit badge — “Citizenship in the Community.”
“[It] means standing up for what is right, and I am proud of Ryan for doing just that,” she wrote. “Will you stand with him, too?”
His father, Eric Andresen, who had joined the troop as the chief administrator to help his son with the bullying, was confronted by the scoutmaster and told that because Ryan was gay, he could not sign off on the project. His father resigned “on the spot.”
“He wants nothing to do with the troop,” said his wife.
Deron Smith, spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, told ABC News in a statement: “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. 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.”
Smith also said that even though the Boy Scouts does not actively ask the sexual orientation of boys, discussions with the Andresens have made Ryan “no longer eligible for membership in scouting.”
He said the “ideals and principles” in the Scout Oath and Law are “central to the mission of teaching young people to make better choices over their lifetimes.”
A senior and honors student who hopes to go the University of San Francisco, Ryan joined the Boy Scouts at age 6.
He came out to his parents when he was “around 16,” said his mother. In July, he wrote a letter to the troop in response to a bullying incident and “thought he could help,” disclosing he was gay.
But just this week the scoutmaster of Troop 212, Rainer Del Valle, refused to give the final signature on Ryan’s project, one that he had initially approved, according to the Andresens.
Del Valle did not immediately respond to an email and a telephone call from ABC News.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio