A Washington, D.C., appellate court ruled Thursday that the Boy Scouts of America did not break the law when it rejected two gay men as scout leaders because of their sexual orientation, The Washington Post reports. The decision reverses an earlier ruling by the D.C. Commission on Human Rights that ordered the men be reinstated and that the Scouts pay each of them $50,000 in damages.
Michael S. Geller, 40, had his membership with the Scouts revoked in 1992 after he wrote a letter to the Boy Scouts in response to a newspaper article quoting the National Capital Area Council's top official as saying gay men were inappropriate role models. Roland D. Pool, 41, was rejected by the Scouts after he indicated his sexual orientation when applying to be a scout unit commissioner.
The appellate court based its decision on the June 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision, in which the justices ruled that the Boy Scouts organization was within its rights to expel openly gay Eagle Scout James Dale because of his sexual orientation. The court said the Scouts group has a First Amendment right to "expressive association" that would be compromised if it were forced to accept gay members or leaders. The D.C. commission considered the Supreme Court decision when it made its ruling last year, but the commission decided that James Dale was a public activist and that there was no indication that Gellar or Pool would advocate any sexual orientation as Boy Scout leaders.
Both Geller and Pool expressed disappointment with Thursday's decision. "It feels like I lost my best friend," Pool said. "I feel like it was one of the most important organizations influencing me as I grew up. I gave all that up to stand up for what I thought was right, and now it looks like I will have given that up for life."