Public Resists Discrimination by Boy Scouts of America

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Lambda points to concerns that BSA anti-gay policy hurts all youth
July 30, 2001

(NEW YORK, July 30, 2001) — Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund Monday confirmed reports that discrimination by the Boy Scouts of America is drawing unprecedented opposition, especially raising concerns that the BSA’s anti-gay policy is harmful to young people.

“We’ve never seen this kind of opposition to anti-gay discrimination from such an array of people,”said Lambda Executive Director Kevin M. Cathcart, adding, “ Parents, religious groups, corporations, cities, and schools are sending the message that anti-gay discrimination is un-American and unhealthy for all kids.”

Even as 32,000 scouts from around the nation attend the 2001 National Scout Jamboree, news reports describe continued concerns from non-gay individuals and groups about BSA’s discriminatory membership policy.

Newsweek reports in its current issue, “A growing number of Americans don’t approve of the exclusionary policy.....moms and dads, priests and rabbis and teenage boys...are taking a stand on this issue of gay rights simply because they love scouting and want it to do the right thing.”

Lambda has tracked opposition to the BSA ban since the United States Supreme Court last year 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 American Medical Association recently adopted a resolution stating that youth groups should lift bans on membership for gay youth because these bans contribute to health risks including depression and suicide among gay youth and are bad public health policy.

Across the country, charities have cut BSA financial support, parents have sought to put their kids in youth groups like 4-H Clubs and Boys and Girls Clubs that don’t teach discrimination, and BSA troops themselves increasingly have called for reversal of BSA policy.

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.

School systems, religious organizations, corporations, and dozens of United Way chapters also have objected to the discriminatory policy.

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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