Scouts' honor

Americans are deeply divided over what the moral, public, and legal status of homosexuality should be. A vast majority thinks homosexuals should be accorded broad toleration as a privacy matter and should not be discriminated against on the job. But most Americans are also hesitant to remake traditional and morally freighted institutions, such as marriage, in order to grant homosexual citizens civil parity with the heterosexual majority.

Last month the Supreme Court heard arguments in The Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, a case that touches on these public/private categories in all of their complexity. Do the Boy Scouts have the right to exclude openly homosexual persons from leadership positions? Or should the state’s interest in battling discrimination trump the Scouts’ allegiance to "traditional" morality?

In 1990 James Dale, a Rutgers University student, was dismissed as an assistant scoutmaster after making his homosexuality public. Dale sued the Boy Scouts, arguing that New Jersey law bars discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Last year the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled in Dale’s favor, determining that the Boy Scouts were a public accommodation and not a private organization, and therefore subject to the antidiscrimination law. The court ordered Dale reinstated. In appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Boy Scouts argued that they are a private group with an "expressive"...

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