Boy Scouts Case Heads To The U.S. Supreme Court

An appeal to the 1999 New Jersey Supreme Court letting a ruling stand that says the Boy Scouts of America can not discriminate against gay scouts and leaders will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in April.

Evan Wolfson, senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, says he is confident the high court will agree with the state court ruling. The first court to hear the 1990 suit brought by James Dale against the Boys Scouts New Jersey ruled the youth group to be a private organization with a constitutional right to limit its membership (the Scouts also does not permit atheists to join).

That ruling was overturned by a state appeals court that said the Scouts is a "place of accommodation" and therefore subject to New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law. The State Supreme Court agreed. Lenora Lapidus, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said, "We think the New Jersey Supreme Court ruling was well reasoned, and we are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will affirm that decision." She said the state court relied on U.S. Supreme Court precedent to arrive at its ruling.

The U.S. Supreme Court will determine if requiring the Boy Scouts to open its membership to follow state civil rights law violates the group’s First Amendment right to freedom of association.

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