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Local review board urges Boy Scouts to award Eagle rank to gay teen

John Makely / NBC News

Ryan Andresen completed the requirements to earn his Eagle Scout award last year, but his Scoutmaster at the time refused to sign his Eagle scout application because of his sexual orientation.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story from Reuters mischaracterized which group had recommended the Eagle Scout rank for Ryan Andresen. It was the local volunteer review board for a California council of the Boy Scouts. 

A local review board for a California council of the Boy Scouts of America has challenged the national organization by recommending that an openly gay former Scout be awarded the top rank of Eagle.

"From what I understand, this has never happened before," Eric Andresen, father of former scout Ryan Andresen, told Reuters. 

"It's the first in-your-face (challenge)," said Bonnie Hazarabedian, who chaired the Boy Scout district review board that signed off on Ryan's Eagle scout application and sent it to the Mount Diablo-Silverado Council to be forwarded to the national headquarters for final approval.

But John Fenoglio, scout executive for the local council, told the Silicon Valley Mercury News on Tuesday that he had ruled that Andresen's submission was still ineligible and would not be forwarded.

Ryan, 18, and his parents drew national attention in October after his Scoutmaster refused to sign his Eagle scout application because of his sexual orientation.

More than 462,000 people subsequently signed the Andresens' petitions at Change.org calling on the Scoutmaster to sign. Meanwhile, the Andresens pushed Ryan's application up the Boy Scout hierarchy in the San Francisco Bay area, where it landed before Hazarabedian. 

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"I don't think sexual orientation should enter into why a Scout is a Scout, or whether they are Eagle material," said Hazarabedian. "We felt without a doubt he deserved that rank." 

In a statement emailed to NBC News on Tuesday, Boy Scouts public relations director Deron Smith said:

"The Eagle application was forwarded, by a volunteer, 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. "

Hazarabedian told Reuters she acted on Ryan's Eagle application because it was filed before his ejection. 

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"It's gotten to the point that getting the Eagle doesn't matter so much. It's the message that counts. It's the desire that no other Scout should ever have to go through this," said Eric Andresen, who was a Boy Scout leader until his son was ejected. 

Hazarabedian called the BSA anti-gay policy "something out of the Dark Ages." 

In 1981 when Hazarabedian was a teenager, her friend's brother Tim Curran, a gay Eagle Scout, was the plaintiff in what became the landmark case in California upholding the right of the Boy Scouts, and private organizations in general, to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. 

Hazarabedian said she recalls making posters and signing petitions in support of Curran and thinking, "By the time I have a son old enough to be a Scout, that will be years from now, they will have fixed this by then, they'll be more tolerant by then. But here we are, 2013, and the same thing is going on." 

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Ryan, who became something of a celebrity with national television appearances and strangers asking to be photographed with him, wants to focus on his last year of high school, his father said. 

"We assume someday BSA will (change), and maybe at that time Ryan can retroactively get his Eagle award," he said. 

This article includes reporting by NBC News staff and Reuters.

California 17-year-old Ryan Andresen is being denied his Eagle Scout award, a top scouting honor. A Boy Scouts official said Andresen is no longer eligible for membership because he does not adhere to scouting's principle of duty to God or the membership standard on sexual orientation.