High Court to Hear Homosexual Boy Scout Case

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The US Supreme Court decided on Friday to hear the case of Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale. The issue is whether the Boy Scouts' organization can exclude homosexuals as members and troop leaders.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled last year that the Boy Scouts could not exclude Dale, a homosexual activist and former troop leader, from their organization.

The nine justices will decide whether the organization had a constitutional right to oust Dale after learning he was gay. The court is expected to hear arguments in April and issue a decision by July.

In appealing to the Supreme Court, the Boy Scouts' legal counsel contends that the state law in New Jersey violated the organization's right of free speech and free association under the Constitution's First Amendment.

"Scouting adheres to a moral belief...that homosexual conduct is not moral," the Scouts' lead lawyer, George A. Davidson, said after the high court granted a review of the case on Friday.

Davidson said an openly gay person would not be a proper Scout role model, and added, "Boy Scouting is really all about sending messages. The message is that you should be morally straight."

The attorney for Dale, however, said opposition to homosexuality is not one of the Scouts' main purposes.

"As gay people, we know how important the First Amendment is," said lawyer Evan Wolfson of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "Their First Amendment rights are not being interfered with. The members did not join the Boy Scouts for bigotry in the first place."

Dale was 20-years-old and an assistant scoutmaster of a Matawan, New Jersey, troop when, in 1990, he was identified in a newspaper article as co-president of a campus lesbian and gay student group at Rutgers University.

Dale previously had attained the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest level in the Boy Scouts of America which only two percent of all members achieve. Dale also had been elected to the Order of the Arrow, a Scouting honor society.

Upon learning of his homosexuality, the Scouts' Monmouth Council revoked Dale's registration as an adult leader. Dale was told that the Boy Scouts of America "does not admit avowed homosexuals to membership in the organization."

Dale sued the Monmouth Council and the national organization in 1992, contending that they violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. His lawsuit seeks reinstatement and monetary damages.

In the past, the US Supreme Court has been reluctant to tackle the issue of gay rights. For example, the justices repeatedly have turned away challenges to President Clinton's "don't ask, don't tell" policy governing gays in the military.

Many experts feel the Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale will provide a landmark legal decision.