Lambda Defends Eagle Scout's Landmark Victory over Anti-Gay Policy

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Tuesday, January 5: New Jersey Supreme Court hears argument
January 4, 1998

(NEW YORK, January 4, 1998) -- Having won the first lawsuit in the country against the Boy Scouts of America's discriminatory ban on gay members and leaders, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund is going before the New Jersey Supreme Court to defend the victory on behalf of Eagle Scout James Dale.

On Tuesday, January 5, the New Jersey Supreme Court will hear the appeal brought by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in Dale v. Boy Scouts of America. Lambda Senior Staff Attorney Evan Wolfson will argue on behalf of Dale; afterwards, both he and Dale will speak to reporters outside the courthouse.

Said Wolfson, "James Dale exemplifies what Scouting truly is all about honesty and respect for the rights of others. The lower court was right when it said scouting is not about discrimination, and should not be shielded from New Jersey's strong civil rights law."

The BSA is appealing a March 1998 ruling by a state appellate court that was the first in the nation to strike down the organization's anti-gay ban as a violation of state law. This ruling against the BSA policy was also the first successful test of New Jersey's prohibition on sexual orientation discrimination.

Rejecting the BSA's attempts to exempt itself from the law, the appeals court said, "Nothing before us even suggests that a male, simply because he is gay, will somehow undermine BSA's fundamental beliefs and teachings."

Dale, now 28, rose to the rank of Eagle Scout and was invited to become an assistant scout master, only to be forced out in 1990 by the national BSA when they learned in a newspaper article that he is gay.

Earlier this year, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear an unrelated challenge to the BSA's exclusionary policies, while the California Supreme Court ruled that the BSA is not covered under that state's more restrictive civil rights law.

Several professional, religious, and non-gay and gay organizations filed friend-of-the-court briefs on behalf of Dale. The New York law firm Cleary, Gottlieb, Stein & Hamilton and New Jersey attorney Lewis Robertson are co-counsel in the case.

Founded in 1973, Lambda is the nation's oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV and AIDS.

    WHAT: Hearing in Dale v. Boy Scouts of America, the leading challenge to the BSA anti-gay ban

    WHO: Lambda Senior Staff Attorney Evan Wolfson argues on behalf of gay Eagle Scout James Dale; both will be outside the courthouse to speak with reporters afterward

    WHERE: New Jersey Supreme Court, 25 Market Street, Trenton, New Jersey

    WHEN: Tuesday, January 5, 1999, 10:00 a.m.

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

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Contact: Peg Byron 212-809-8585, 888-987-1984 (pager)


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