US Boy Scouts lose another legal battle for excluding gays

Troy Espera | October 20, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal today by a Boy Scouts affiliate that lost its rent break from the city of Berkeley, Ca. because the Scouts exclude gays and atheists, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The court, without comment, upheld a California Supreme Court ruling this March that said a city is entitled to subsidize only organizations that comply with its anti-discrimination rules.

The case involved the Sea Scouts, a nonprofit that teaches sailing, carpentry and plumbing to teenagers. According to the Chronicle, the organization used a berth at the Berkeley Marina without charge from the 1930s until 1998, when the City Council eliminated rent subsidies for nonprofits that discriminated on the basis of religion, sexual orientation and other categories.

The Sea Scouts, the only group affected by the change, have been charged $500 a month in rent since refusing to promise that they would admit gays as members or leaders. The organization filed suit in 1999, arguing that it should not be forced to surrender its rights as the price of public funding. The suit was based on a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in a New Jersey case in 2000 that said the Boy Scouts' constitutional right of freedom of association included the right to exclude gays, despite a state civil rights law.

City Attorney Manuela Albuquerque, who argued that Berkeley taxpayers shouldn't be forced to subsidize a private organization that won't honor city anti-discrimination laws, told the Oakland Tribune Monday that the city is �delighted.�

�We believe now it is crystal clear that taxpayers have no constitutional duty to fund discriminatory clubs,� she said to the Tribune. �The city has a right to require public-subsidized programs to be open to all, so we're happy that principle has been reiterated by the Supreme Court's denial of certiorari in this case.�

Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Harold Johnson, co-counsel for the Berkeley Sea Scouts' skipper, expressed disappointment that the court won't review �Berkeley's policy of punishing the Sea Scouts because they are not politically correct.�

�But we are confident that, eventually, the Court will take a case addressing the underlying issues, because there are too many examples of government discrimination against Scouting and other belief-based organizations to ignore,� Johnson said to the Tribune.

The California Supreme Court said an organization's right to determine its own membership policies did not guarantee access to public funding.

"Berkeley did not demand adherence to or renunciation of any idea or viewpoint,' the state court said March 9, reports the Chronicle. Instead, the ruling said, the city merely required the Sea Scouts and other recipients of subsidies to "conform their actions to (the city's) laws.'

The ruling was one of several legal setbacks for the Boy Scouts since the 2000 Supreme Court case. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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