Supreme Court Ruling Yields Unexpected Lesson for Boy Scouts of America

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One year later: Boy Scout discrimination still outrages Americans
June 21, 2001

(NEW YORK, June 21, 2001) — In the year since the United States Supreme Court allowed the Boy Scouts of America to ban gay members, America is responding with unprecedented outrage against gay discrimination, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Thursday.

“We’ve never seen this kind of opposition to anti-gay discrimination from such a diverse array of people,” said Lambda Executive Director Kevin M. Cathcart. “Parents, religious groups, corporations, cities, and schools agree: the Boy Scouts may have a legal right to discriminate, but that doesn’t make discrimination right,” he said.

One year ago on June 28, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale against Lambda’s argument on behalf of James Dale. An exemplary and dedicated Eagle Scout, Dale was kicked out of scouting after BSA learned he was gay.

“The public is sending the message that anti-gay discrimination is un-American and unhealthy for all kids,” Cathcart said, pointing to charities that cut BSA financial support, parents that put their kids in youth groups that don’t teach discrimination, and growing demands for reversal of BSA policy.

The trend was highlighted when scouting councils from nine major urban areas asked BSA to change its policy so that “membership and leadership positions are open to persons regardless of their sexual orientation,” and that “a Scout treat all people with respect, regardless of their sexual orientation.”

Council presidents and board chairmen from New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, West Los Angeles, Orange County, California, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Boston, according to press reports, urged the change at BSA’s recent national meeting in Boston.

Also rejecting the anti-gay policy are the American Medical Association, numerous school systems, scores of religious organizations, corporations, United Way chapters, and even individual scouts and troops. For example:

  • Spurred by opposition to BSA’s anti-gay policy, the American Medical Association just adopted a resolution stating that youth groups should lift bans on membership for gay youth because these bans contribute to anxiety and depression among gay youth and are bad public health policy;

  • Filmmaker Steven Spielberg stepped down from an advisory board of the BSA, stating, “The last few years in Scouting have deeply saddened me to see the Boy Scouts of America actively and publicly participating in discrimination. It’s a real shame;”

  • Seven Cub Scout packs in Oak Park, IL, were expelled from Scouting because they said they could not comply with the anti-gay policy;

  • Public schools in cities and towns ranging from Chicago, Minneapolis, San Diego, and New York City to Chapel Hill, NC, Framingham, MA, and Burnsville, MN have taken action including eliminating the Boy Scouts’ special privilege to distribute literature in schools and ending sponsorship of BSA troops;
  • The Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism (the joint body of the Conference of American Rabbis and Union of American Hebrew Congregations) called on Jewish families and synagogues to sever ties with BSA;

Contact Lambda for a fuller list.

Said Lambda Senior Staff Attorney David Buckel, who worked on the Dale case, “The Scouts’ discriminatory policy tells gay youth that they are unworthy, that there is something wrong with them – and hearing this kind of message from the Boy Scouts, some might start to believe it. Thankfully, people across the country are countering that damage and helping these young people stand up with pride.” Lambda is the oldest and largest legal organization dedicated to the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV and AIDS. In addition to its headquarters, Lambda has regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta and will open an office in Dallas in 2002.

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Contact: Jennifer Grissom 212-809-8585 ext. 231
Michael Adams 212-809-8585 ext. 211


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