In Wake of Supreme Court Ruling, Public Support for Boy Scouts Erodes

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Pressure mounts against BSA anti-gay membership policy
August 29, 2000

(NEW YORK, August 29, 2000) — Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Tuesday praised continuing efforts by charities, corporations, government entities, parents, and Scouts themselves to take a stand against the Boy Scouts of America’s discriminatory ban on gay youth and adult members.

“As long as the Boy Scouts’ leaders impose an exclusionary membership policy, the rest of us, especially public schools, parents, and funders, will dissociate ourselves from discrimination against our kids,” said Lambda Senior Staff Attorney Evan Wolfson, who argued before the Supreme Court against the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay membership policy.

“Throughout its history, BSA has played a useful role in American public life, teaching generations of young boys the value of honesty, community service, and respect for others. But now that BSA leadership has turned its back on those core values, funders, like United Way, parents, and sponsors have to speak up. Not only are gay members suffering discrimination, but non-gay members are being taught that discrimination is right,” he said.

Lambda recently unveiled an Internet-based initiative to help parents, funders, and others who want to join the growing movement against BSA’s anti-gay policy. Available on Lambda’s website, the on-line kit pools together resources, background materials, and action steps.

Lambda urges BSA funders to channel support to other youth organizations, such as the National 4-H Club, Boys and Girls Clubs, Campfire Boys and Girls, and Girl Scouts of America, which ban discrimination and also teach the virtues of civic life.

Lambda Supervising Attorney Jon W. Davidson, who litigated the pioneering challenge to BSA’s discriminatory policy filed in 1981, said,“Government entities that continue to support BSA are neglecting their constitutional obligation not to discriminate. Many public agencies, like police departments, military units and public schools, sponsor – that is, literally own and operate – Scout troops, making government an accomplice to BSA’s discrimination.”

By breaking its promise to be “open to all boys,” BSA has forfeited the litany of government privileges it historically has enjoyed, said Davidson from Lambda’s Western Regional Office in Los Angeles.

“Of course, BSA should be allowed access to government services and public property on the same basis as everybody else. But its special privileges from government – including a federal charter, favorable tax treatment, access to facilities and services, recruitment in public schools, and a close association with Congress, the President, the military, and other public agencies – cannot continue,” Davidson said.

Wolfson added, “I urge everyone who values Scouting, and is alarmed by the direction that the venerable organization has taken, to speak up and take action now. The swifter and stronger the response, the sooner this discrimination will end.”

Lambda is the nation’s largest legal organization for lesbians, gay men and people with HIV/AIDS. Headquartered in New York, Lambda has offices in Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles.

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Contact: Peg Byron 212-809-8585 x 230, 888-987-1984 (pager); Evan Wolfson 212-809-8585 x 205


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