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Gay Executive Who Was Fired by Scouts Files Bias Suit

December 07, 2000|PETER Y. HONG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A former Santa Barbara Boy Scout executive who was fired after publicly revealing he is gay has filed a job discrimination lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Leonard Lanzi was the top Boy Scout official in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties until he was dismissed in November, weeks after stating in a public meeting that he is gay.

Lanzi's lawsuit, filed in Santa Barbara Superior Court, contends that the Scouts violated California's employment discrimination laws by firing him, said Steven Serratore, the Los Angeles lawyer representing Lanzi. The Boy Scouts "knowingly violated these laws by their blatant discriminatory treatment of Mr. Lanzi in the workplace," Serratore said.

Boy Scouts of America officials could not be reached for comment.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the Boy Scouts have a right to exclude openly gay men from their ranks. That ruling came in a case brought about by a New Jersey scoutmaster whose membership was revoked after he told a newspaper he is gay.

Serratore said Lanzi's case differs because Lanzi was an employee of the Boy Scouts, whereas James Dale, the New Jersey scout, was a volunteer troop leader.

"This case involves the right to work free of discrimination. The Supreme Court case involved whether someone has a right to be a member of a group," Serratore said.

Lanzi, 38, was an Eagle Scout who had worked for the Scouts in various cities since 1987. He became the executive director of the Los Padres Council in 1997.

Lanzi disclosed his sexual orientation during a Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting in which he was defending the Scouts' ban on gays.

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