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Boy Scouts of America v. Dale

    Brief Fact Summary. Dale (Respondent) had his status as a troop leader revoked because he is gay.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Freedom of expressive association is violated when a regulation significantly affects the organizations ability to advocate its viewpoints. Great deference is given to the organization in determining whether a regulation infringes upon its expression.

    Facts. Respondent was an Eagle Scout and a troop leader when his membership was revoked because the Boy Scouts of America (Petitioner) learned that he is gay. Respondent was a scout until he turned eighteen when he went away to college. While a freshman at Rutgers University, Respondent became openly gay and was the co-president of the gay rights group on campus. He was interviewed for a local newspaper article that identified him as a gay leader. Later that month he received a letter from Petitioner revoking his adult membership citing the forbiddance of homosexual members.

    Issue. Does New Jersey law forcing Petitioner to admit homosexuals as members violate its First Amendment right of freedom of association?

    Held. Yes. This law forces Petitioner to approve a message to which it does not agree. Such a regulation is an unlawful restraint on the association and the characteristics of a “clean” life that it supports.

    Dissent. Petitioner’s oath and by-laws make no specific mention of the organization’s attitude towards homosexuals. In fact, it encourages scout leaders to send curious boys to others for sex education questions. The majority ruling creates a constitutional shield of prejudice.

    Discussion. Expressive associations are protected from forced membership. To be an expressive association an organization must engage in some form of expression. Petitioner seeks to instill and instruct young boys in making choices based on the scout oath. This purpose is expressive conduct that makes Petitioner and expressive associations. Petitioner clearly opposes homosexuality and believes that it is at odds with a “morally straight” and “clean” lifestyle. By accepting Respondent, Petitioner would be endorsing a message it clearly opposes and be impairing its freedom of expression.


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