Boy Scout's Anti-Gay Ban to be Reviewed by U.S. Supreme Court
(NEW YORK, January 14, 2000) -- The United States Supreme Court Friday agreed to hear the Boy Scouts of America's appeal of a New Jersey ruling that struck down the group's ban on gay members and leaders, a move Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said could shed more light on the organization's discriminatory policy nationwide.
Lambda Senior Staff Attorney Evan Wolfson, who secured the landmark New Jersey decision on behalf of exemplary Eagle Scout and Assistant Scoutmaster James Dale, said, "The Court now has a chance to hear that scouting is about honesty, community service, self-reliance, and respect for others -- not discrimination."
Wolfson added, "We are confident that, once the Justices examine the facts, they will agree with the unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court that Boy Scouts do not come together to promote bigotry and anti-gay bias. Thus, their first amendment rights are not violated by the civil rights law."
Lambda will defend the landmark New Jersey Supreme Court ruling won last August in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale, bringing nationwide attention to the discriminatory anti-gay policies of the Boy Scouts of America.
The New Jersey court ruled that the BSA violated state civil rights law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The court rejected the group's first amendment defense, saying that the BSA's free speech and association rights would not be infringed by allowing gay people to be scouts because anti-gay bigotry was not the reason members joined.
Both the Girl Scouts of America, and the BSA's parent organization, the Boy Scouts of England, do not have policies that prohibit membership for lesbians or gay men, respectively.
Said Dale, "Scouting is a wonderful program that should be available to all boys, free of discrimination. I look forward to our day before the U.S. Supreme Court."
Now 29, Dale was in scouting for a dozen years, earned over 30 merit badges, rose to the rank of Eagle Scout, and became a member of the prestigious Order of the Arrow. The BSA ousted him in July 1990 after learning he was gay through a newspaper article about his volunteer community activities.
Dale is also represented by the New York firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, and New Jersey attorney Lewis Robertson.
With its headquarters in New York and regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta, Lambda is the nation's oldest and largest legal organization defending the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV/AIDS.
CONTACT:Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x230, 1-888-987-1984 pager
Evan Wolfson 212-809-8585 x 205