Brief Fact Summary. The Respondent, Dale (Respondent), was an eagle scout whose membership in the boy scouts was revoked when the Petitioners, the Boy Scouts of America (Petitioner), learned that he was a homosexual.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. While individuals are given a right to freely associate, associations are not forced to include members whose beliefs may affect its own ability to express the message it wishes to convey.
The court found that, while the Petitioner’s laws and oaths do not mention sexuality, the purpose of the organization to foster “morally straight” and “clean” membership would be disregarded if the Petitioner was forced to accept the Respondent. Further, the First Amendment Rights of the association would be violated if it were forced, under the guise of law, to send a message that it accepted homosexual conduct when, on its own assertions, it did not. The Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) held that to require the Petitioner to accept Respondent was an abridgment of the Petitioner’s freedom of expression.
Dissent. Justice John Paul Stevens (J. Stevens) dissented, noting that by allowing the Petitioner to revoke the Respondent’s membership, the Supreme Court was allowing the organization to prevail over the anti-discrimination laws of the state.
Discussion. An organization cannot be compelled to accept a member whose beliefs do not align with the tenants upon, which the organization stands. To do so would violate the First Amendment constitutional rights of the entire organization and its members, who also align themselves with the principals on which the organization stands.