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The Nation

Boy Scout Bias Case Is Refused

The group, in an appeal, said its policy against hiring gays had led to a discriminatory move by Connecticut to drop it from a charities list.

March 09, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from the Boy Scouts over what the group said was discrimination because of its policy against hiring gays.

The case revisited the gay rights fight surrounding the high court's ruling four years ago that the organization had the right to ban openly homosexual Scout leaders. This time, the question was whether states could treat the Scouts differently from other groups because of that policy.

The Scouts asked the justices to hear a case from Connecticut, where officials moved to drop the group from a list of charities receiving donations through a state employee payroll-deduction plan. That's unconstitutional bias, the Scouts argued.

The Scouts took in about $10,000 annually from the employee charity campaign, the filing said. The organization lost two previous rounds in federal court, and Monday's action means the case is over.

"What the [lower appeals court] is saying is that government is entitled to make an organization that exercises its 1st Amendment right pay a price for exercising that right," said lawyer George Davidson, who represented the Boy Scouts.

The group is pursuing a similar court fight in San Diego, where the American Civil Liberties Union is trying to end two leases it says give the Boy Scouts preferential treatment for use of city-owned land. The Bush administration sided with the Scouts in the dispute last week.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the right of association under the 1st Amendment meant the Scouts could expel a gay assistant scoutmaster in New Jersey.

In the Connecticut case, a state human rights panel had found that including the Boy Scouts in the State Employee Campaign Committee would violate the state's gay rights law, Atty. Gen. Richard Blumenthal argued to the high court.

A federal appeals court ruled last year that Connecticut did not violate the Scouts' 1st Amendment rights. The Connecticut policy was intended more to protect gays than to silence the views of groups, the court said in upholding the ruling of a lower federal judge.

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