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Youth and Schools

Boy Scouts of America v. Dale

New Jersey

The Impact of the Boy Scouts of America’s Anti-Gay Discrimination

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Thousands of public and private organizations, as well as individuals, have ended their longstanding associations with the Boy Scouts because of its continuing anti-gay discrimination. In June 2000, Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund argued Dale v. Boy Scouts of America before the U. S. Supreme Court, challenging the Boy Scouts’ refusal to end its anti-gay policies. The high court ruled that the government could not constitutionally prohibit the Boy Scouts’ intolerance.

How are communities reacting to the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay discrimination?

In the course of convincing the Supreme Court that it has a constitutional right to discriminate, the Boy Scouts made its views on gay people clear to the world -- and communities have responded by ending special public benefits that had been extended to the Boy Scouts for decades. Schools districts, law enforcement agencies and public service organizations have all ended their relationships with the Boy Scouts since the Dale decision.

  • At least 360 school districts with approximately 4,532 schools in 10 states (including school districts in Chicago, Minneapolis, New York, San Diego and San Francisco) have stopped sponsoring Boy Scouts programs because of the organization’s anti-gay discrimination.

  • Local law enforcement agencies across the nation, including police departments in Chicago, San Diego, Tempe and Buffalo Grove, Illinois, have disassociated themselves from the Boy Scouts because of the organization’s anti-gay discrimination. The Santa Clara, California, Sheriff’s Department has also severed ties with the Boy Scouts.

  • The Chicago Fire Department and Law and Aviation Departments have ended their relationships with Boy Scouts.

  • The City of Los Angeles chose to no longer allow free use of its Department of Parks and Recreation facilities for camping and other activities by groups that engage in discrimination, including the Boy Scouts.

How have the courts reacted to communities that choose to sever their relationships with the Boy Scouts?

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Dale, the Boy Scouts has discovered that discrimination -- even if it was permitted under the Constitution -- has its consequences. Courts have held that the Boy Scouts may be denied special benefits by both public and private entities that choose not to support discrimination.

  • A federal appeals court recently ruled that the Constitution does not prevent the State of Connecticut from excluding the Boy Scouts from its State Employee Charitable Campaign, which solicits state employees to make voluntary donations to one or more participating charities. This benefit removal was based on the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policies, which conflict with the state’s anti-discrimination law.

  • A state court ruled that the City of Berkeley could refuse to provide free space to the Scouts at a city marina. That case is now on appeal.

  • A California court recently said that the City of San Diego could choose not to give the Boy Scouts exclusive free use (or use for $1 per year) of city land, while providing the same deal to other groups.

How has the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay discrimination affected the organization’s ability to raise money?

Private donors, including major corporations across the United States, have discontinued substantial donation programs to the Boy Scouts after the Supreme Court decision in Dale.

  • Companies such as Chase Manhattan Bank, Levi Strauss, Wells Fargo, Fleet Bank and CVS have all terminated corporate contributions to the Boy Scouts.

  • Perhaps the most widely publicized decisions to halt contributions to the Boy Scouts have been those announced by the individual chapters of the United Way. The United Way was one of the largest sources of the Boy Scouts’ funding, but since the Dale decision, more than 50 United Way chapters, including those in Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle, have stopped funding the Boy Scouts.

  • Steven Spielberg, Hollywood director and Eagle Scout, cut his ties to the Boy Scouts after a 10-year run on the organization’s advisory board because of its anti-gay policies. When announcing his decision, Spielberg said, “I thought the Boy Scouts stood for equal opportunity, and I have consistently spoken out publicly and privately against intolerance and discrimination based on ethnic, religious, racial and sexual orientation…”

  • The Boy Scouts’ discrimination also gave pause to the Pew Charitable Trusts, which suspended a $100,000 grant to the Cradle of Liberty Council, Boy Scouts of America in Philadelphia. This suspension of funds ended 50 years of donations to the Boy Scouts.