Boy Scouts of America et al VS. James Dale



          

Boy Scouts of America et al. v. James Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000), was a case of the Supreme Court of the United States overturning the New Jersey Supreme Court's application of the New Jersey public accommodations law, which had forced the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to readmit assistant Scoutmaster James Dale. When he was a student at Rutgers University, Dale became co-president of the Lesbian/Gay student alliance. Then, in July 1990, he attended a seminar on the health needs of lesbian and gay teenagers. During the seminar, he was interviewed, and the work was subsequently published. He was expelled from Scouting after BSA officials read the interview in a local newspaper and Dale was quoted as stating he was gay. The Supreme Court held that the lower court's decision unconstitutionally violated the rights of BSA, specifically the freedom of association, which allows a private organization to exclude a person from membership when "the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group's ability to advocate public or private viewpoints."The court ruled that opposition to homosexuality is part of BSA's "expressive message", and allowing homosexuals as adult leaders would interfere with that message. The case was argued on April 26, 2000 and was decided on June 28, 2000.


The Boy Scouts of America is a private, non-profit organization engaged in instilling its system of values in young people. It asserts that homosexuality is inconsistent with those values. James Dale is an adult whose position as assistant Scoutmaster of a New Jersey troop was revoked when the Boy Scouts learned that he is openly gay and a gay rights activist. Dale, an Eagle Scout, filed suit in the New Jersey Superior Court, alleging, among other things, that the Boy Scouts had violated the state statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation.  The case went to the New Jersey Supreme Court which ruled against the Boy Scouts, saying that they violated the State's public accommodations law by revoking Dale's membership based on his homosexuality. Among other rulings, the court (1) held that application of that law did not violate the Boy Scouts' First Amendment right of expressive association because Dale's inclusion would not significantly affect members' ability to carry out their purposes; (2) determined that New Jersey has a compelling interest in eliminating the destructive consequences of discrimination from society, and that its public accommodations law abridges no more speech than is necessary to accomplish its purpose; and (3) held that Dale's reinstatement did not compel the Boy Scouts to express any message. The Boy Scouts appealed to the United States Supreme Court, which granted certiorari to determine whether the application of New Jersey's public accommodations law violated the First Amendment. The decision concludes: We are not, as we must not be, guided by our views of whether the Boy Scouts' teachings with respect to homosexual conduct are right or wrong; public or judicial disapproval of a tenet of an organization's expression does not justify the State's effort to compel the organization to accept members where such acceptance would derogate from the organization's expressive message. While the law is free to promote all sorts of conduct in place of harmful behavior, it is not free to interfere with speech for no better reason than promoting an approved message or discouraging a disfavored one, however enlightened either purpose may strike the government.