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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
US court bans gay Scout leaders

The US Supreme Court has ruled that gay men can be banned from serving as Scout leaders.

The ruling, carried by only the narrowest of majorities, overturned a lower court decision which had accused the Scouts of prejudice.

The case was seen as a test of gay rights.


We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law

Scout statement
It centred on a teenaged Scout leader, James Dale, who was sacked in New Jersey after a newspaper revealed that he was gay.

He went to court claiming discrimination, and won his case in the New Jersey Supreme Court.

But that ruling has now been reversed by US Supreme Court judges, who voted five-to-four in favour of the Scouts.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist said forcing the Scouts to allow gay leaders would violate the organisation's constitutional rights.

Atheists

He added: "We are not, as we must not be, guided by our views of whether the Boy Scouts' teaching with respect to homosexual conduct are right or wrong."

The minority four judges who found in favour of Mr Dale said they did not believe the Scouts' constitutional rights had been affected, as they were not being forced to communicate any message they did not wish to endorse.

The Boy Scouts, who also exclude atheists and agnostics as leaders, say they have the right to decide who can join their ranks.

The organisation had argued in court that forcing it to accept gay men would violate its constitutional right of freedom of association and free speech under the First Amendment.


We are not, as we must not be, guided by our views of whether the Boy Scouts' teaching with respect to homosexual conduct are right or wrong

Chief Justice William Rehnquist

The Scouts said they were pleased with the ruling as it allowed them to sustain their standards.

"We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law," said the Scouts in a statement.

Mr Dale was an assistant Scout master in the New Jersey town of Matawan, when a newspaper report named him as co-president of a lesbian and gay student group.

His registration as an adult leader was revoked, after the organisation told him they did allow openly gay members.

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See also:

26 Apr 00 | Americas
Vermont's gays win parity
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21 Jan 99 | Americas
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30 Nov 99 | Entertainment
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