NJ Court Orders Boy Scouts to Lift Ban on Homosexuals

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNS) - The Supreme Court of New Jersey today ruled that the Boy Scouts of America's ban on homosexuals serving as scoutmasters is illegal under that state's anti-discrimination law.

The decision upholds a previous state appeals court decision which found that James Dale, an assistant scoutmaster, was illegally ordered to give up his post as an assistant scoutmaster nine years ago after local Scout leaders discovered he was homosexual. Dale had been interviewed for a local newspaper and mentioned his sexual orientation in the article.

The court said the Boy Scouts constitutes a "place of public accommodation" subject to the state's anti-discrimination law. The court also rejected the Scouts' claim that striking down their ban on homosexuals violates the group's First Amendment rights, calling that claim "tantamount to tolerating the expulsion of an individual solely because of his status as a homosexual - an act of discrimination unprotected by the First Amendment freedom of speech."

The case was decided in the Scouts' favor in 1995, when a lower court concluded that the group was a private organization that could set its own rules for membership.

An appeals court overturned that ruling last year, saying that Dale's "exemplary journey through the Boy Scouts of America ranks as testament enough that these stereotypical notions about homosexuals must be rejected." Dale was a highly-decorated Eagle Scout as a teenager.

Rejecting the Boy Scouts' claim that allowing Dale's membership would constitute an expression of support for homosexuality inconsistent with the group's moral viewpoint, the New Jersey Supreme Court found that "Dale has never used his leadership position or membership to promote homosexuality, or any message inconsistent with Boy Scouts' policies."

Dale was represented by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a homosexual advocacy group and public interest law firm.