LOCATION: Boy Scouts of America
DOCKET NO.: 99-699
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: New Jersey Supreme Court
CITATION: 530 US 640 (2000)
ARGUED: Apr 26, 2000
DECIDED: Jun 28, 2000
Evan Wolfson - Argued the cause for the respondent
George A. Davidson - Argued the cause for the petitioners
Facts of the case
The Boy Scouts of America revoked former Eagle Scout and assistant scoutmaster James Dale's adult membership when the organization discovered that Dale was a homosexual and a gay rights activist. In 1992, Dale filed suit against the Boy Scouts, alleging that the Boy Scouts had violated the New Jersey statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation. The Boy Scouts, a private, not-for-profit organization, asserted that homosexual conduct was inconsistent with the values it was attempting to instill in young people. The New Jersey Superior Court held that New Jersey's public accommodations law was inapplicable because the Boy Scouts was not a place of public accommodation. The court also concluded that the Boy Scouts' First Amendment freedom of expressive association prevented the government from forcing the Boy Scouts to accept Dale as an adult leader. The court's Appellate Division held that New Jersey's public accommodations law applied to the Boy Scouts because of its broad-based membership solicitation and its connections with various public entities, and that the Boy Scouts violated it by revoking Dale's membership based on his homosexuality. The court rejected the Boy Scouts' federal constitutional claims. The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed. The court held that application of New Jersey's public accommodations law did not violate the Boy Scouts' First Amendment right of expressive association because Dale's inclusion would not significantly affect members' abilities to carry out their purpose. Furthermore, the court concluded that reinstating Dale did not compel the Boy Scouts to express any message.
Does the application of New Jersey's public accommodations law violate the Boy Scouts' First Amendment right of expressive association to bar homosexuals from serving as troop leaders?
Media for Boy Scouts of America v. DaleAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 26, 2000 in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 28, 2000 in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale
William H. Rehnquist:
I have the opinion of the Court to announce in No. 99-699. the Boy Scouts of America versus Dale.
The Boy Scouts of America and its Monmouth County New Jersey Council are the petitioners here.
I will refer to them collectively as the Boy Scouts.
The Boy Scouts is a private not-for-profit organization engaged in instilling its system of values in young boys.
James Dale is the respondent.
Dale entered scouting at age eight and remained as scout until age 18.
By all accounts, he was an exemplary youth member and attained the rank of Eagle Scout.
In 1989, he applied for adult membership in the Boy Scouts and was accepted as an assistant scoutmaster.
Shortly thereafter he left home to attend college at Rutgers University.
While at Rutgers he first acknowledged to himself and others that he is gay.
He quickly became involved with, and eventually became the co-president of, the Rutgers University Lesbian Gay Alliance.
In 1990, he attended a seminar addressing the needs of gay teenagers.
A newspaper covering the event published an interview with Dale, that addressed his advocacy of role models for gay teenagers.
The article included a picture of Dale that identified him as the co-president of the Lesbian Gay Alliance.
The Boy Scouts saw the article and revoked Dale’s adult membership.
He filed a complaint in the New Jersey Superior Court alleging the Boy Scouts had violated New Jersey's Public Accommodations Law, which prohibits sexual orientation based exclusion from places of public accommodation.
That Court's Chancery Division granted summary judgment in favor of the Boy Scouts holding that the Boy Scouts was not a place of public accommodation for the purposes of the New Jersey law.
The New Jersey Appellate Division reversed holding that the public accommodations law did apply to the Boy Scouts and the law required the Boy Scouts to readmit Dale.
The New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Appellate Division.
The New Jersey Supreme Court rejected the Boy Scouts’ claim enforcing it to admit Dale would violated its First Amendment right of expressive association.
We reverse the judgment of the New Jersey Supreme Court and hold that the application of New Jersey’s public accommodations’ law in this case violates the Boys Scouts First Amendment rights.
In Roberts v. Jaycees we observed that implicit in the right to engage in activities protected by the First Amendment is a corresponding right to associate with others in pursuit of a wide variety of political, social, economic, educational, religious, and cultural ends.
We deem this right to be the right of expressive association.
The expressive associational right is crucial in preventing the majority from imposing its views on groups that would rather express other, perhaps unpopular, ideas.
In Roberts we stated that one of the ways the government may burden this freedom is by forcing the group to accept a member it does not desire.
In order to decide whether enforcing the Boy Scouts to accept Dale violates the group’s First Amendment rights to expressive association we must make several inquiries.
First, we must determine whether the Boy Scouts engage in expressive association sufficient to give them First Amendment protection.
It is clear from the record that the mission of the Boy Scouts is to instill a system of values in young boys.
It seems indisputable that this is expressive activity entitling the Boy Scouts to First Amendment protection.
Next we must determine whether the Boy Scouts express a view about homosexuality.