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Case Summary

Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000)

Facts of the Case:


The Boy Scouts of America revoked former Eagle Scout and assistant
scoutmaster James Dale's adult membership when the organization
discovered that Dale was a homosexual and a gay rights activist. In 1992,
Dale filed suit against the Boy Scouts, alleging that the Boy Scouts had
violated the New Jersey statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of
sexual orientation in places of public accommodation. The Boy Scouts, a
private, not-for-profit organization, asserted that homosexual conduct was
inconsistent with the values it was attempting to instill in young people. The
New Jersey Superior Court held that New Jersey's public accommodations law
was inapplicable because the Boy Scouts was not a place of public
accommodation. The court also concluded that the Boy Scouts' First
Amendment freedom of expressive association prevented the government
from forcing the Boy Scouts to accept Dale as an adult leader. The court's
Appellate Division held that New Jersey's public accommodations law applied
to the Boy Scouts because of its broad-based membership solicitation and its
connections with various public entities, and that the Boy Scouts violated it
by revoking Dale's membership based on his homosexuality. The court
rejected the Boy Scouts' federal constitutional claims. The New Jersey
Supreme Court affirmed. The court held that application of New Jersey's
public accommodations law did not violate the Boy Scouts' First Amendment
right of expressive association because Dale's inclusion would not
significantly affect members' abilities to carry out their purpose.
Furthermore, the court concluded that reinstating Dale did not compel the
Boy Scouts to express any message.
Question:
Does the application of New Jersey's public accommodations law violate the
Boy Scouts' First Amendment right of expressive association to bar
homosexuals from serving as troop leaders?
Conclusion:
Yes. In a 5-4 opinion delivered by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the
Court held that "applying New Jersey's public accommodations law to require
the Boy Scouts to admit Dale violates the Boy Scouts' First Amendment right
of expressive association." In effect, the ruling gives the Boy Scouts of
America a constitutional right to bar homosexuals from serving as troop
leaders. Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote for the Court that, "[t]he Boy Scouts
asserts that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the values it seeks to
instill," and that a gay troop leader's presence "would, at the very least,
force the organization to send a message, both to the young members and
the world, that the Boy Scouts accepts homosexual conduct as a legitimate
form of behavior."