The court said the Scouts' decision to kick James Dale out of the Boy Scouts because he is gay should be overturned. An attorney for Dale said this is the first time any appeals court has ruled against the Boy Scouts in challenges to their exclusion of homosexuals.
Dale earned 30 merit badges, seven achievement honors, and other awards, and was an Eagle Scout during his 12 years in the organization. He last served as an assistant scoutmaster.
He was expelled by the Monmouth Council of the Boy Scouts in 1990 after the group learned from a newspaper article that he was gay. He sued and a lower court judge ruled in the Scouts' favor in 1995, calling homosexuality "a serious moral wrong" and agreeing with the Boy Scouts of America that the group is a private organization and has a constitutional right to decide who can belong.
The Appellate Division of State Superior Court overruled that decision Monday, saying the Boy Scouts of America and its local councils are "places of accommodation" that "emphasize open membership" and therefore must adhere to New Jersey's anti-discrimination law.
New Jersey's anti-discrimination law was expanded in 1992 to prohibit most organizations from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.
All three members of the appellate panel agreed that Dale should be restored as a member of the Boy Scouts. One judge, however, disagreed that the Boy Scouts should be forced to reinstate Dale to a leadership position. The dissent means the decision can be automatically appealed for a hearing before the state Supreme Court.
Dale, now 27 and working in New York for a publishing company, said he was elated by the decision.
"This is everything that I was taught in the Boy Scouts, that justice will prevail," Dale said. "It's a wonderful victory for scouting. I was taught in Boy Scouts that you stand up for your rights, that when you know something was right, deep down, you go for it."
By Thomas Martello ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed