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Scouting for a decision.

Justices will hear the case against the Boy Scouts' policy against gay men

Many legal observers groaned when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed January 14 to hear an appeal of a New Jersey court ruling requiring the Boy Scouts of America to comply with a state law banning antigay discrimination in public accommodations. To them, the only reason the high court had to hear the case was to overturn the state court ruling.

But Evan Wolfson, who will argue the gay rights case before the court, is keeping a stiff upper lip. "I don't believe that the court's decision tells us anything about which way the court is leaning," insisted Wolfson, senior staff attorney at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. "We don't know which four justices voted to hear the case, and we don't know why. They could still go either way."

Wolfson points out that doomsayers misjudged the same court in 1996, when it voted 6-3 to strike down a Colorado constitutional amendment banning the adoption of gay rights measures. "Many people feared that the court had taken the case just to make a point about [allowing antigay discrimination]," he said. "But they were wrong."

Wolfson believes the court will be reluctant to allow the Boy Scouts to discriminate against gay men and lesbians, in part because it would mean repealing decades of civil rights law. "Is the court really going to roll back the clock to the day when private organizations and clubs could essentially assert that they could do whatever they wanted to their minority members on the grounds of free speech?" he asked. "The Boy Scouts are trying to undermine a long line of cases that mandate the inclusion of women and racial minorities in private organizations. This is a gay rights case with implications for almost everybody in America."
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Article Details
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Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 29, 2000
Previous Article:Rants & raves.
Next Article:An all-too-familiar tragedy.

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