Unprecedented Group of Civil Rights, First Amendment Advocates Join ACLU in Urging U.S. Supreme Court to Block Boy Scouts Bias

Affiliate: ACLU of New Jersey
April 26, 2000 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – Assembling one of the broadest, most powerful coalitions ever to come before the U.S. Supreme Court in a lesbian and gay rights case, the American Civil Liberties Union, joined by 18 of the nation’s leading civil rights groups, today urged the Court to rule that Boy Scouts of America cannot discriminate against gay people.

The nation’s premiere African-American, Asian-American, Mexican-American and women’s organizations joined leading First Amendment advocacy groups on the brief in Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale.The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case this morning.

“This brief makes an incredibly profound statement – not simply in its content, but in its source,” said Matthew Coles, Director of the ACLU’s Lesbian and Gay Rights Project. “Every leading civil rights and First Amendment group in the country has come forward, together, telling the Supreme Court that preventing the Boy Scouts from discriminating is not only constitutional, but is in line with the core American value of judging people on the basis of capability, not on stereotypes.”

James Dale, a former Boy Scout and Assistant Scout Master, was told to sever his relationship with the organization because he is gay. He sued, saying his expulsion violated New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law, which forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodations. The trial court ruled against him, finding that the Boy Scouts is not a public accommodation and that subjecting the group to the state anti-discrimination law would violate Boy Scouts’ freedom of expressive association. An appellate court reversed that decision, and the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the reversal. Dale is represented by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

In the brief filed in today’s case, the broad coalition of civil rights and First Amendment groups said the Boys Scouts “has no more right to discriminate in violation of state law than the Rotary Club or Jaycees. Like those other organizations, whose earlier efforts to evade the civil rights laws were soundly rejected by this Court, the exclusionary anti-gay membership policy that the Boy Scouts now so vigorously defends falls outside the scope of any associational or expressive freedom protected by the First Amendment.”

The brief was filed by the ACLU on behalf of the following groups: the American Federation of Teachers, the Anti-Defamation League, the California Women’s Law Center, the Center for Women Policy Studies, Equal Rights Advocates, the Human Rights Campaign, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the National Asian Pacific Legal Consortium, the National Council of Jewish Women, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Partnership for Women and Families, the National Women’s Law Center, the Northwest Women’s Law Center, People for the American Way Foundation, Women Employed and the Women’s Law Project.

The brief in Boy Scouts of America v. James Daleis available online at: http://archive.aclu.org/court/boyscouts_v_dale.html.

To learn more about lesbian and gay issues, visit the Lesbian and Gay Rights section of the ACLU’s web site, http://archive.aclu.org/ .

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