BY Advocate.com Editors
February 10 2001 1:00 AM ET
The Boy Scouts’ antigay policy continues to cause problems for the group, as two states move against the Scouts and a Denver church severs its ties to the organization. In Connecticut, the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities upheld a ruling from last May that bars the Scouts from the State Employee Charitable Campaign because of its antigay policies. The commission held that the Scouts’ inclusion in the charity drive violated the state’s nondiscrimination law. The Scouts had sought a second ruling from the commission in light of its victory in the Supreme Court last June upholding its right to bar gay members. The commission said that the Scouts may “exclude persons in the exercise of its First Amendment rights; as a result, such an organization may not, however, be entitled to benefits conferred by the government if that organization discriminates.... [A] constitutional right to discriminate does not equate with a right to have the government sanction or support an organization’s discriminatory policies.” “This is an important ruling that makes clear that as long as the Boy Scouts continue to discriminate, they will not do so with the sanction and support of the state of Connecticut,” said Jennifer Levy, an attorney for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a legal group.
In New Jersey, the state is considering a policy that would require school districts to stop renting space to the Scouts, the Asbury Park Press reports. The change would clarify an antidiscrimination rule that prohibits schools from doing business with any organization that discriminates. The policy already covers discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, and other categories, to which sexual orientation would be added. “If the proposed regulations are adopted, it would most likely mean that the districts could not rent space to the Boy Scouts,” said Mike Yaple, spokesman for the state school boards association. “Of course, the code would not mention any specific organization, but it would prevent contracts with any groups that discriminate on the basis on sexual orientation.” The state board of education will begin consideration of the policy change in March.
In Denver, Washington Park Church has decided to end its 60-year affiliation with the Scouts because of its antigay policy, The Denver Post reports. “We voted unanimously to end the relationship,” said the Rev. Clyde Miller, the church’s pastor. “It is painful, and many members of the congregation are very sentimental about the Scouts,” said Nancy Milligan, a church member. “But the Scouts are absolutely rigid about this.” Last October, Temple Emanuel, the city’s largest synagogue, severed its ties with the Scouts, and Rabbi Steven Foster returned his own Scout medals to the Scouts’ Denver office in protest.
In nearby Golden, Colo., the First United Methodist Church struck a compromise with the local troop using its facilities. In the agreement, the troop won’t try “to discover the sexual orientation” of scouts or scout leaders and “won’t report rumors concerning, seek to determine, or evaluate the sexual orientation of any member.” The agreement came after consultation with BSA lawyers at the national headquarters in Irving, Tex. Troop leader John Hedberg said that the original draft of the agreement described sexual orientation as “irrelevant” but that the national headquarters rejected that wording. Hedberg said his troop wanted to “make a statement” about the Scouts’ antigay policies. “I think the Boy Scout policy is damaging to the 5% of Boy Scouts who may be gay and the 95% who aren’t but who will be taught it’s OK to discriminate,” he said.