Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Girls, Gays and Agnostics Need Not Apply. Oh, Really?

Legislation: It's official--the Boy Scouts can reject whomever they want. But teenager Katrina Yeaw refuses to take no for an answer and says she'll keep fighting to gain membership.

March 27, 1998|PAMELA WARRICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Katrina Yeaw loves nature, believes in God and is not homosexual. But, according to the California Supreme Court, she still can't join the Boy Scouts.

"I was born a girl, and no matter what else I do with my life, that's what it all comes down to--being a girl," says Katrina, 14. "Being born a boy or a girl is not something you can change, but maybe we can still change the laws that make it legal to discriminate against girls."

When Katrina was 11, she asked to join her twin brother Daniel's Boy Scout troop in the small Northern California town of Rocklin, where they live. When she was rejected, she filed suit against the Boy Scouts of America, accusing them of violating her civil rights.

Although California Supreme Court justices did not specifically mention Katrina's case in their landmark ruling Monday, she took their decision upholding the Scouts' freedom to bar whom they wish quite personally.

The state's highest court had Katrina's case under review when it ruled against a case brought by Anaheim twins who refused to recite the required Scout oath to God and an older lawsuit filed by a gay man who was ejected as an assistant Scoutmaster 17 years ago because his sexual orientation violated the Scouts' code of "moral straightness." The court found the Boy Scouts to be a social organization not covered by anti-discrimination laws.

Katrina's lawsuit, which had been unsuccessful in lower courts, is in effect "finished" by the decision, according to her attorney, Gloria Allred of Los Angeles.

"She is a pioneer, and it takes courage to be a pioneer. We'll be exploring legislative ways to end the way this state is allowing the Boy Scouts of America to treat girls like second-class citizens," says the outspoken attorney and former Camp Fire Girl.

"If the Boy Scouts of America is private, let them not get one penny of public funds to discriminate against children," Allred told a West Hollywood town hall meeting Wednesday. "Our plan is to ask the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Unified School District not to give the Boy Scouts space to recruit, to hold their meetings, or funding for Scouting activities that openly and blatantly discriminate on the basis of gender and sexual orientation."

Boy Scout troops in more than 100 other countries are open to girls and, in the United States, girls and women are welcomed into the Explorer program for 14- to 21-year-olds (with the caveat that they cannot earn badges or compete for promotion to Eagle Scout status). Katrina, a straight A student who hikes, camps and goes to church, wanted to join the Boy Scouts because there were no age-appropriate Scouting groups for girls near her home that offered the activities she wanted.

"I know what Boy Scouts do," Katrina said when she filed her lawsuit, "and it's not just arts and crafts. They camp overnight and hike and learn about the wilderness and surviving outdoors."

After a surprise visit to Anaheim on Tuesday night to console William and Michael Randall, the 16-year-old twins whose lawsuit--and Scout membership--also ended with Monday's ruling, Katrina and her father and ex-Scoutmaster, Jim Yeaw, said both families will be looking for ways to change California law.

*

On Wednesday, as she started the six-hour trip home in the family van with her father, Katrina told The Times that she's sorry if she offended any Girl Scouts, but she's not sorry for pursuing her court case.

"I'm pretty disappointed [by the outcome], but not completely surprised. I've learned a lot about the world since I was 11, some of it not so nice," Katrina recalls. "There were a couple of annoying boys at school who used to yell, 'Hey, Boyeee Scout,' at me all the time, and there have been some people, even friends of our family, who just stopped being our friends over this. But, yes, it's always been worth it."

Just two weeks ago, an appeals court in New Jersey decided that the Boy Scouts in that state could not bar gays under New Jersey's public accommodations law. The Scouts are appealing that ruling, but similar cases also are pending in Washington, D.C., and in Chicago.

"Whether it's a girl issue, a gay issue or a godless issue," says Yeaw, "what we should remember here is that in every case, the troops have wanted these kids to be there. The children, as always, are the ones we should be listening to. These are the kids' troops--and they should decide who can belong."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|