Lambda Fights Anti-Gay Discrimination By Boy Scouts in New Jersey

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State appeals court to hear argument for gay Eagle Scout on Monday, December 8
December 5, 1997

(NEW YORK, December 5, 1997) -- Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is continuing its battle on behalf of a New Jersey Eagle Scout, who challenged his expulsion by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) because he is gay as a violation of New Jersey's anti-discrimination law.

James Dale was invited to become an assistant scoutmaster after compiling an exemplary scout record and earning the prestigious Eagle Scout Badge. However, he was abruptly expelled in 1990, after BSA officials learned from a college newspaper story that he was gay. Dale filed his lawsuit for reinstatement in the BSA in 1992, in the first case to invoke New Jersey's law prohibiting sexual-orientation discrimination.

"We are simply asking the court to make clear that the Boy Scouts are not outside of the reach of New Jersey law against discrimination," said Evan Wolfson, Lambda senior staff attorney. "The Boy Scouts are not exempt from that statute, nor, under the framework set by the United States Supreme Court, can they carve out a special first amendment license for their discrimination," he said.

In 1995, with a harshly worded opinion, peppered with biblical allusions and references to "sodomy" and "buggery," a lower court ruled against Dale, refusing to apply the New Jersey anti-discrimination law to the Boy Scouts and generally ignoring the case law governing other discrimination claims in New Jersey. The lower court also evaded the standards established by the U. S. Supreme Court for determining when organizations are expressive associations and thus have first amendment protection to discriminate.

On Monday, December 8, Wolfson will argue Dale's appeal to the New Jersey Appellate Division in Hackensack, N.J. Lambda Staff Attorney David Buckel has assisted in the case. Dale, now 27, said, "Discrimination goes against everything I learned in my 12 years of Scouting. I want the Boy Scouts of America to give back what I earned and allow me to continue to serve."

Lambda represents Dale along with co-counsel Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton of New York and Lewis Robertson, Esq., of New Jersey. A number of professional associations and religious groups, as well as lesbian and gay organizations, submitted amicus briefs in support of Dale.

Who: Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Senior Staff Attorney Evan Wolfson What: Presents argument for enforcing New Jersey anti-discrimination law and require Boy Scouts to reinstate gay Eagle Scout as an Assistant Scoutmaster. When: Monday, December 8, 9:30 a.m. ( first case on the docket) Where: Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, Justice Center, Hackensack, N.J.

(Dale v. Boy Scouts of America, No. A-2427-95T3) --30--

Contact: Peg Byron 212-809-8585, 888-987-1984 page


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