Panel Thumbs Nose at High Court's Scout Ruling
WASHINGTON – The District of Columbia yesterday ignored a previous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court and ordered the Boy Scouts of America to pay $50,000 in compensatory damages to two gay Eagle Scouts who were ousted from the private organization in 1992.
The judgment handed down by the D.C. Human Rights Commission is the first against the Boy Scouts of America since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the organization has the right to exclude openly homosexual members.
The mayor-appointed 15-member commission ordered the Boy Scouts to "cease and desist from revoking memberships of individuals solely because their status as homosexuals."
This order stands in opposition to a high court ruling which said the Boy Scouts has a First Amendment right of "expressive association" and cannot be forced to include gay members.
The Supreme Court decision overturned a New Jersey State Supreme Court ruling that said the Scouts did not have the right to exclude scoutmaster James Dale, now 30, who was dropped from the organization after he was identified as a gay activist in the Newark Star-Ledger in 1990.
Officials in several cities across the country have responded to the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal by attempting to penalize the Boy Scouts at the local level.
In the case of the D.C Human Rights Commission, the panel ruled that Michael Geller and Roland Pool were not activists and their "inclusion into an adult leader position would not infringe on BSA’s core message." In addition to the $50,000 in damages ordered to each man, the scouts are also charged with paying their attorney’s fees.
The panel further ruled that the scouts had violated the District’s 1977 Human Rights Act. And it handed down a similar judgment last month when it ruled in favor of a homosexual man who was rejected as a volunteer for the local Big Brothers program.
The Associated Press contributed to this story