ACLU of Illinois Lauds Court Ruling That Boy Scouts Cannot Discriminate Based on Sexual Orientation

Affiliate: ACLU of Illinois
August 13, 1999 12:00 am

ACLU Affiliate
ACLU of Illinois
Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


CHICAGO — The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois today hailed a Cook County Circuit Court decision barring the Boy Scouts from considering the sexual orientation of applicants in employment decisions.

The decision in the Chicago case comes on the heels of a recent New Jersey Supreme Court decision rejecting the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policies in that state. In Dale v. Boy Scouts of America, the New Jersey high court declared that the Boy Scouts held themselves out as open to the public and were, therefore, subject to state anti-discrimination laws.

The Cook County court is equally direct in its assessment that, for the Boy Scouts, “the mere sexual orientation of an employee… is not related to any nondiscriminatory basis for denying opportunities for employment.”

“When this ruling is considered in the context of the Dale decision last week, the courts’ collective message to the Boy Scouts is powerful, clear and unmistakable,” said Roger Leishman, Director of the ACLU/Roger Baldwin Foundation Gay and Lesbian Rights/AIDS and Civil Liberties Project.

“The courts will no longer tolerate the Boy Scouts discriminatory practices based on sexual orientation,” he said. “It is time for the Boy Scouts to bring a voluntary end to these practices and to embrace the most important values we can share with young people — tolerance and inclusion.”

The case, Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts of America v. City of Chicago Commission on Human Relations and G. Keith Richardson, was argued by staff attorneys of the ACLU of Illinois on behalf of Richardson, a former Eagle Scout who was denied consideration for employment by the local Boy Scouts in 1992.

The decision by Judge Stephen A. Schiller forces an end to the Scouts’ practice of discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation, and prohibits the Scouts from publishing and distributing any materials within the City of Chicago that indicate any discriminatory criteria for employment.

In addition, the court’s ruling supports a central argument articulated by the ACLU — namely, that an individual’s sexual orientation has no bearing on their ability to accomplish successfully the duties of any job. The court specifically ruled that the discrimination against Richardson by the Boy Scouts was particularly grievous because of the very public, inclusive nature of the organization.

The Circuit Court and the City of Chicago Commission on Human Rights specially noted that the Boy Scouts have a strong tradition of tolerating and including a wide range of religious and moral viewpoints within their membership and among their sponsoring organizations. Discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation, the court found, is antithetical to this long tradition and practice of inclusion and tolerance.

“I am personally thankful for the judge’s ruling,” said Keith Richardson, who became an Eagle Scout in 1974.

“It should be pointed out, however, that this decision is broader and encompasses more than my own efforts to gain employment with the Boy Scouts,” he noted. “It is a signal that, from now on, all people — regardless of their sexual orientation — will have an equal opportunity to continue their participation in Scouting through employment. My hope is that the result will be a more tolerant, more inclusive and stronger Boy Scouts of America.”

Volunteer attorneys Charles H.R. Peters of Schiff, Hardin & Waite, Chicago, and Ms. Ann Rae Heitland of Flagstaff, Ariz., assisted the ACLU in this case.

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release