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Boy Scouts of America v. Dale

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Becca Mitchell

on 8 April 2014

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Transcript of Boy Scouts of America v. Dale

Boy Scouts of America v. Dale
Background
When Dale was a student at Rutgers University, he became co-president of the Lesbian/Gay student alliance. In July 1990, he attended a seminar on the health needs of lesbian and gay teenagers, where he was interviewed. An account of the interview was published and in a local newspaper and Dale was quoted as stating he was gay. BSA officials read the interview and expelled Dale from his position as assistant Scoutmaster of a New Jersey troop. 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
Decision
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.
Precedent
The first amendment protects private groups from state public accommodations laws because it gives groups the right of expressive associations.
Background (cont.)
The New Jersey Supreme Court 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 to determine whether the application of New Jersey's public accommodations law violated the First Amendment.

Constitutional Issue
This case presents the question whether applying New Jersey’s public accommodations law in this way violates the Boy Scouts’ First Amendment right of expressive association
Full transcript