High Court to Hear BSA Defense of Anti-Gay Policy

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NAACP, religious, education, & other civil rights groups support ousted Eagle scout
April 24, 2000

On Wednesday, April 26 at 10:00 a.m. the U.S. Supreme Court will hear argument in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale.

Lambda Senior Staff Attorney Evan Wolfson will deliver the oral argument on behalf of Dale, the Eagle Scout ousted for being gay after 12 years of exemplary participation. Both Dale and his attorney Evan Wolfson will comment outside the Supreme Court following the hearing.

“Time and again the Supreme Court has rejected the notion that the First Amendment gives groups a ‘right to discriminate’,” said Wolfson. “Boy Scouts do not come together to promote an anti-gay or discriminatory message. Scouts come together around the traditions and values of Scouting, things James Dale always did and still desires to uphold.”

Wolfson noted that this case follows in a tradition of landmark cases in which groups have unsuccessfully tried to employ the First Amendment as an exemption from civil rights laws. In those cases, involving the Rotary Club and the Jaycees, the Court rejected the same “first amendment defense” that the Boy Scouts use here, when raised in support of discriminatory policies barring women and people of color.

The importance of Dale’s case to the sanctity of civil rights protections is underscored by the vast array of amici that have filed on Dale’s behalf. Every major civil rights organization including the NAACP has joined with cities, states, youth organizations such as the 4-H Club, deans of divinity schools and rabbinical institutions, mental health and social services organizations.

Together, the 71 organizations represent the most comprehensive grouping of amici to ever appear before the High Court in a case testing the civil rights of lesbians and gay men.

“It is sad that the leadership of the Boy Scouts continues to stick by this policy of discrimination,” said Dale, now age 30. “Hopefully they will realize that turning their backs on gay members is really a huge loss to Scouting.”

Last August, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled unanimously that due to BSA’s enormity and entanglement with governments and public entities, the organization should be considered a place of “public accommodation” subject to the state’s Law Against Discrimination. Subsequently, BSA sought review from the Supreme Court and now argues that the First Amendment trumps the New Jersey law.

WHAT: U.S. Supreme Court to hear argument in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale

WHO: Former Eagle Scout James Dale who was ousted over a decade ago for being gay and Lambda Senior Staff Attorney Evan Wolfson will speak to reporters following the hearing WHERE: Plaza outside U.S. Supreme Court, Washington D.C.

WHEN: Wednesday, April 26, immediately following the oral argument scheduled for 10:00 a.m. quote>

(Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale, No. 99-699)

Contact: Peg Byron 212-809-8585 ext. 230, 888-987-1984 (pager)
T.J. Tu 212-809-8585 ext. 222


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