City officials in Norwalk, Conn., are considering denying a permit for the Boy Scouts to use a beach for a recruitment drive because of the Scouts' discriminatory policies regarding gay members.
Mayor Alex Knopp has asked the law department to determine whether there is legal precedent to deny a Boy Scouts troop use of Shady Beach. Knopp's request came after members of the city common council's parks committee told Scoutmaster Greta DeAngelis last week that they would vote against issuing her a permit for a three-hour campfire and recruitment program October 24. The mayor said he would decline to comment until he is better informed.
The controversy about Boy Scouts of America membership arose a few years ago when the organization expelled James Dale, an Eagle Scout and assistant scoutmaster in New Jersey for 10 years, because he is gay. Dale sued and won reinstatement, but the Scouts took their case to the U.S. Supreme Court and, in
Although DeAngelis said her Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts troops do not discriminate, city parks committee members Kenneth Baker and Peter Wien argued that the local troops are required to follow the national policy.
Lena Ferguson, legislative and regulations specialist for the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, said she is unaware of any other Connecticut municipalities that have denied the Scouts use of public land. Lou Salute, a Boy Scouts executive with the Connecticut Yankee Council, said
DeAngelis only wants the same access to public facilities given to other organizations. "To deny the Boy Scouts access would constitute discrimination against us," Salute said.
In 2000, the Connecticut State Employees' Campaign Committee removed the Boy Scouts from its list of charities that state employees contribute to through a payroll deduction plan. The move came after the state's Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities found that including the Boy Scouts on the list violated the state's antidiscrimination laws because of the group's policy barring gays. A federal judge upheld the state's decision two years later, after the Boy Scouts sued.
Emanuel Margolis of Stamford, legal adviser to the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union, said he believes Norwalk would be denying the Boy Scouts their constitutional rights. "I think it's a fairly simple question of First Amendment rights and principles," Margolis said.