Court Upholds Scouts' Right to Exclude Homosexual Troop Leaders

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has ruled that the Boy Scouts of America had a right to bar two men as troop leaders because of their declared homosexuality.

The ruling, issued last week, overturned a June 2001 decision by the District of Columbia Human Rights Commission that the scouts violated the District's anti-discrimination laws when it revoked the membership of Michael Geller and Roland Pool in 1992 because of their homosexuality.

The commission ordered the Boy Scouts and the National Capital Area Council to admit both men as adult members, to pay their attorney fees and to pay them each $50,000 in damages.

The Boy Scouts argued that the verdict went against a decision by the Supreme Court, which ruled that the scouts is not a public accommodation subject to state anti-discrimination laws.

In June 2000, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Boy Scouts, therefore, had the right to bar James Dale as a scout leader because of his homosexuality.

In the ruling by the D.C. appeals court, appellate Judges Michael Farrell, Stephen Glickman and Inez Smith Reid said they could not find any significant difference between the two cases.

"Obviously we're pleased," said Gregg Shields, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts. "The court did uphold our constitutional right to determine our own standards of leadership and this is probably our last existent case regarding homosexuality," he said.

Attorneys for the two men argued that in the Dale case, the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts had a right to exclude someone who was a homosexual activist. In the case of Geller and Pool, the commission found that the Boy Scouts were attempting to expand their exclusion and illegally apply it everyone who is homosexual, they argued.

The appellate court found, however, that the two men had been vocal about their homosexuality.

Merril Hirsh, a lawyer with the firm of Ross, Dixon and Bell, which represented the two men, said he was disappointed with the decision.

"These are two Eagle Scouts who have extensive boy scouting experience and the Boy Scouts would be much better for including them. It's really sad that the Boy Scouts find it necessary to exclude talented people," Hirsh said.

Geller and Pool have not made any decision yet on whether to pursue the case, Hirsh said. The legal options open to them are either to seek rehearing by the full nine judges of the D.C. Court of Appeals, or to ask the Supreme Court to review the case.

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