Narrow California Ruling Does Not End Battle Against Anti-Gay Discrimination by Boy Scouts

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March 23, 1998

(LOS ANGELES -- Monday, March 23, 1998) -- Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund deplored Monday's California state Supreme Court ruling, which held that the state's law does not reach anti-gay discrimination by organizations like the Boy Scouts of America.

Lambda, co-counsel in the case, Curran v. Mount Diablo Council of the Boy Scouts of America, emphasized that the court made a narrow ruling that applies only to California and does not stop efforts against the BSA's anti-gay discrimination elsewhere in the country.

"Although today's decision applies only to California law, it is a shame that even one state tolerates blatant discrimination by an important American institution," said Jon W. Davidson, supervising attorney for the Lambda Western Regional Office in Los Angeles. He argued the Curran case on January 5, on behalf of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, which is lead counsel.

"'A Scout is prejudiced' should not be a thirteenth point of the Scout law," Davidson said.

He added, "Discrimination by the Boy Scouts is wrong, whether it be today's banishing of gay people and religious nonbelievers, or the organization's past racial segregation of troops and exclusion of Japanese-American children after World War II."

Filed in 1981, Curran was the oldest pending challenge to the BSA's exclusion of gay men and boys. The case asserted that the BSA ban on all "known or avowed homosexuals" violates California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination by business establishments in the state. The state Supreme Court held that the BSA is not a business establishment subject to that law and can therefore discriminate at will.

Said Evan Wolfson, senior staff attorney for Lambda, which recently won a New Jersey court decision in another Scouts case concerning anti-gay discrimination, "We are very disappointed that the California court failed to see that California's law prohibits discrimination by organizations like the Boy Scouts of America. The New Jersey court got it right -- members do not join the Scouts to be part of an anti-gay organization; discrimination violates what Scouting itself stands for. We are hopeful that cases continuing across the country will ultimately topple BSA's anti-gay policy."

Wolfson referred to a powerful March 2 ruling by a New Jersey appellate court against the BSA policy excluding gays. He is lead counsel in that case, Dale v. Boy Scouts of America, which concerns a former Eagle Scout who was expelled from a council in New Jersey for being gay. BSA is appealing that case to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Lambda is the oldest and largest lesbian and gay legal organization and has its headquarters in New York and regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta.

(Curran v. Mount Diablo Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Cal. S. Ct. # S039738)

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Contact: Peg Byron, 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984, (pager); Jon W. Davidson, 213-937-2728


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