Expelled Boy Scout Speaks Out on State Supreme Court Ruling

The Daily Targum
September 1999

Nine years after he was expelled from the Boy Scouts of America for being gay, Rutgers University graduate James Dale said he feels as if justice has been served.

On Aug. 4, New Jersey’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled the Boy Scouts’ ban on gays is illegal according to the state’s anti-discrimination law.

The court, which upheld an earlier 1998 appellate court decision, said because the Boy Scouts organization is a place of public accommodation, it falls under the state’s anti-discrimination law. The law states that a person cannot be denied accommodations, advantages, facilities and privileges because of his or her sexual orientation.

The Boy Scouts argued that its decision to expel Dale should be protected under the First Amendment. But justices said recognizing that claim would be “tantamount to tolerating the expulsion of an individual solely because of his status as a homosexual – an act of discrimination unprotected by the First Amendment.”

The decision is an important one for the struggle to end unfair treatment of groups of people, said Dale, who rose through the ranks to become an Eagle Scout and an assistant scoutmaster of troop 73. The organization expelled Dale after seeing a picture of him participating in a conference on the needs of gay and lesbian adolescents in 1990 while he was a student at Rutgers.

“I think it’s a wonderful vindication for myself and my family and all people,” Dale said.

He said his reaction to the Boy Scouts’ decision was a natural one.

“When this whole thing happened I just knew what was right and what was wrong,” he said. “I was just standing up against someone who was discriminating against me.”

Despite the Boy Scouts’ actions, Dale said he still believes in the principles of scouting.

His nine-year fight, which began when he contacted the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund a month after he was expelled, is just an extension of what he was taught as a scout, he said.

“It is consistent with what I was doing in scouting, standing up for myself and being a leader in the community,” he said.

Dale won this battle, but the war is far from over.

The Boy Scouts plan on appealing the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Dale said he thinks taking the case to the nation’s highest court would be a terrible waste of money and would continue to do harm to gay teens and children.

“They’re seeing that an organization is discriminating against them,” he said.

Dale’s fight, while an inspirational one, is an example of “why so many people get into activism and get frustrated and leave,” said Rutgers senior Isaiah Beard, president of the Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian Alliance of Rutgers University.

“It’s been a nine-year fight and it’s just the beginning,” Beard said. “There is going to be a lot more struggling.”