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JUNE 28, 2000
7:15 PM
CONTACT:  People for the American Way
Nancy Coleman 202/467-4999
Supreme Court Allows Boy Scouts to Hide Discrimination Behind First Amendment
Close Ruling Raises Troubling Questions About Future of Civil Rights Laws
WASHINGTON - June 28 - The U.S. Supreme Court today ruled 5-4 that the Boy Scouts of America can discriminate against gay men and boys by prohibiting them from becoming or remaining members. People For the American Way Foundation filed an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in this case on behalf of James Dale, who was expelled from the Boy Scouts because he is gay.

"The Courtís decision permits the Boy Scouts to hide their discrimination behind the First Amendment and rejects the right of New Jersey to create a just society for its citizens," said People For the American Way Foundation president Ralph G. Neas. "The Court has allowed freedom of association to become a tool by which groups unfairly exclude a group of Americans."

"íMoralí claims have been used to try to justify nearly every form of discrimination against minority groups," said Neas. "The Court has struck down the right of New Jersey to enforce its civil rights laws and upheld the Scoutsí blatantly unfair and unlawful practice of excluding gay boys and men on Ďmoralí grounds."

Referring to the Courtís close decision and ideological divisions Neas said, "Close rulings this year highlight the precarious future of our constitutional rights and liberties. The results of the November election will likely change the focus of this Court and either preserve our constitutional and civil rights or turn back the clock for all Americans."

People For the American Way Foundation recently released a report, "Courting Disaster," that documents the devastating impact that a further rightward shift on the U.S. Supreme Court would have on Americansí fundamental rights and freedoms. The report outlines exactly how adding just one or two Justices who share Justices Antonin Scaliaís and Clarence Thomasí far-right legal philosophy could tip the balance on the Court for decades to come. Cases decided this term have reinforced this conclusion, and PFAWF will be releasing an analysis of this termís decision the end of this week.

The plaintiff in the Boy Scoutsí case, James Dale, is among several essayists featured in People For the American Way Foundationís upcoming publication on nation-wide anti-gay discrimination, Hostile Climate. This yearís edition, which will be published later this summer, details over four hundred incidents, including recent controversies over the Boy Scoutsí policy regarding gays in Florida, Rhode Island and California.


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