Do the Boy Scouts of America Have a First Amendment License to Discriminate?

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Georgetown University debate on civil rights and gay youth on Wednesday, October 27
October 25, 1999

(NEW YORK, October 25, 1999) -- At a Washington, D.C., forum about the recent defeat of the Boy Scouts of America's anti-gay policy, Evan Wolfson, senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, will explain why New Jersey's highest court correctly ruled that there is no first amendment problem with requiring the BSA to comply with anti-discrimination law.

On Wednesday, October 27, Wolfson, who argued the landmark case, will debate New Jersey Assemblyman Michael Carroll at Georgetown University Law Center. They will address the question: "Dale v. Boy Scouts of America: Can Private Entities Discriminate Based Upon Sexual Orientation?"

"Civil rights laws do not interfere with the Scouts' message, program, or true purposes. The Boy Scouts' members do not join Scouting to be a part of bigotry," Wolfson said before the standoff, adding, "As the New Jersey Supreme Court concluded, gay scouts can be good scouts."

In August, the Court became the first state high court to lift the Scouts' anti-gay ban, ruling unanimously in Dale v. Boy Scouts of America that the group's exclusionary policy violated the state civil rights law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The court's 89-page opinion methodically applied first amendment precedents set by the United States Supreme Court and dismissed the Scouts' attempts to exempt themselves from the anti-discrimination law. Examining the BSA's core values, the New Jersey court concluded that, because the group's broad, open membership does not come together for the purpose of discriminating against gay people, the BSA's first amendment rights were not infringed.

The court wrote, "To recognize the Boy Scouts' first amendment claim would be tantamount to tolerating the expulsion of an individual solely because of his status as a homosexual an act of discrimination unprotected by the first amendment freedom of speech."

Regardless, Assemblyman Carroll has announced that he will introduce a bill seeking to allow the Scouts to circumvent the state ruling, while the BSA says it plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The forum is jointly sponsored by Outlaw and the Federalist Society. Lambda is the nation's oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV/AIDS.

    WHAT: "Dale v. Boy Scouts of America: Can Private Entities Discriminate Based Upon Sexual Orientation?"

    WHO: Lambda Senior Staff Attorney Evan Wolfson, lead counsel to the victorious New Jersey gay Eagle Scout, debates Michael Carroll, the state legislator trying to undermine the historic ruling

    WHERE: Georgetown University Law Center, 600 New Jersey Ave. N.W., Washington, Room 200

    WHEN: Wednesday, October 27, 3:30 p.m

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Contact: Peg Byron 212-809-8585, 888-987-1984 pager; Evan Wolfson 212-809-8585 x 205, 888-987-1976 (pager)


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