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Activist groups, including Scouting for All, urge President Obama not to accept the honorary Presidency of the Boy Scouts of America until they stop discriminating.


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Broward School Board evicts 60 Boy Scout, Cub Scout troops over anti-gay policy


By BILL HIRSCHMAN Sun-Sentinel
Web-posted: 12:33 a.m. Nov. 15, 2000

Deeply held values between the Boy Scouts of America and the Broward County School Board collided on Tuesday as the board voted unanimously to evict the group from using public schools because of their ban on gay members.

Impassioned speakers and agonized board members argued for more than three hours about the collision of freedom of thought against government's commitment to wiping out discrimination.

At midnight, the board took its controversial vote after listening to three dozen speakers.

The controversy arose after Superintendent Frank Till recommended not letting the group use schools for their meeting and recruitment drives based on the Scouts' policy not to admit gay members or troop leaders. This, Till said, was in violation of the district's anti-discrimination policy.

A crowd of about 80 people cheered, booed and yelled until School Board Chairwoman Darla Carter ordered security guards to remove two audience members from the Western High School auditorium in Davie, where the meeting was held.

About 60 Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs will have to find another place to meet in 30 days.

But the South Florida Council of the Boy Scouts serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties pledged to sue the district and seek an injunction.

"The Boy Scouts have gone all the way to the Supreme Court to protect their right to free association guaranteed by the First Amendment. The Boy Scouts similarly will not hesitate to seek an injunction against any unconstitutional action taken by the Broward County School Board," said Jeffrie Herrmann, an executive for the Scouts' council.

A school board evicting Scout troops over their homosexuality policy is so unusual that the only other instance anyone can remember occurred in the early to mid-1990s, said Greg Shields, spokesman of the national Scout organization.

Trying to steer away from a discussion of morality, Board Attorney Ed Marko attempted to narrow the discussion to a legal breach of contract issue.

Till contended the Scouts had signed a 1998 lease that required groups to comply with the district's strong stand against any discrimination.

While the Scout literature rarely mentions sex in any way, the Boy Scout Oath -- uttered at every meeting -- does require Scouts to be "morally straight." That phrase led to a national policy specifically barring gay leaders and children.

While respecting the Scouts' efforts in character education, several board members said they could do nothing that would support a group that discriminates.

"Miriam Oliphant and this board do not discriminate and everybody has to be put on notice that we will not tolerate discrimination," Oliphant said in her last meeting on the board.

The Scouts countered that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last summer that they have the right to limit membership and ban gays based on their beliefs.

"It is unfair and indeed unconstitutional to exclude the Boy Scouts from the use of school facilities based upon Scouting's viewpoint," Herrmann said.

The Scouts' key argument is that the district is treating Scouts different from other groups.

"The School Board has never challenged single sex organizations nor has it challenged the age restrictions common to other groups which use school facilities."

The Scouts contend that the district cannot hold Scouts to the agreement requiring non-discrimination because it allows other groups to use the schools even though they discriminate.

Herrman cited as an example that the district allows the military to recruit on campus, even though the armed services have "similar policies."

By allowing such groups to remain on campus, the district "implicitly recognized that policies well-suited to public accommodations do not necessarily make sense when applied to organizations catering to young people," he said.

Till has committed to evicting any group that discriminates and he expects to have a study within 30 days to have identified other groups that use schools but discriminate.

He also promised the board to order principals to be more careful in the future in screening groups for discriminatory practices when they ask to use the schools.

The board had braced for the hundreds of partisans who crowded the Fort Lauderdale City Commission chambers earlier this fall when the commission rejected the Scouts' application for a grant.

But only about 20 gay rights supporters and about 60 Scout supporters showed up. They sat on opposite sides of the auditorium in Davie.

"Sadly, some of the greatest casualties of this Scouting policy are young Scouts themselves," said gay activist Ray Rideout, co-chair of GLSEN of Greater Fort Lauderdale, a gay rights organization. "A certain percentage of these children are just coming to realize that they are gay." "And they are now receiving cruel messages that they are not morally clean -- that they are
unworthy of membership," Sabina Berrena, of Weston, who was ejected from the meeting by security guards, said "I'm here to support the Boys Scouts. The School Board preaches tolerance when their policies are hypocritical. When they take a vote against the Boys Scouts, in fact, they are taking detrimental measures against the whole youth of America."

Margaret Hostetter, a Davie resident, told the board that she was worried that evicting the Boy Scouts might also affect church-related groups that use the schools for meetings and services.

The meeting was the last full session for Diana Wasserman-Rubin and Miriam Oliphant, the board's minority members. Wasserman is leaving after 12 years to serve as a county commissioner; Oliphant ends an eight-year tenure to become county election supervisor.

Beverly Gallagher and Ben Williams will take their places at the Nov. 21 meeting where a new chairman and vice chair will be elected.


Sun-Sentinel, December 13, 2000

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/daily/detail/0,1136,36000000000142431,00.html

Broward delays eviction of Boy Scouts from schools for three months


By BILL HIRSCHMAN, Sun-Sentinel

The Broward County School Board on Tuesday extended its deadline for evicting the Boy Scouts from schools by more than three months. Board members stressed that they had not wavered in their intention to ban the Scouts because of the organization's stand on homosexuality.

Their aim is to eliminate multiple court hearings on the Scouts' request to a federal judge for an injunction, Board Attorney Ed Marko said.

Meeting in closed session Tuesday, the board informally agreed to allow 57 Scout Troops and Cub Packs to meet in schools and use its buses until March 30, district documents show. The original deadline set nearly a month ago was Sunday.

The board voted to evict the Scouts on Nov. 14, saying the organization's ban on gay members and leaders violates a nondiscrimination policy in their agreement to use school facilities.

The Scouts sued School Board members in federal court on Dec. 4, claiming the district's policy outlaws all groups serving a specific age or sex or belief system, including Brownies and church groups, none of which are being evicted.

As a result, the Scouts said, they were the real victims. The district is discriminating against their exercise of the constitutional right to free expression and equal access to public facilities, the lawsuit states.

The Scouts had sought an emergency hearing on a preliminary injunction against the board's plan to close the schools to Scouts as of Sunday. U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks set the hearing for 5 p.m. Thursday.

But Marko said Tuesday that it made no sense to have a hearing on a preliminary injunction and another one a few weeks later.

After Tuesday's executive session, Marko filed a motion citing the extended deadline and asking Middlebrooks to cancel the Thursday hearing.

The judge agreed late Tuesday. In a written statement, the board stated, "The School Board remains committed to the vigorous enforcement of its policy precluding discriminatory practices on the part of those persons leasing or using School Board facilities or transportation."

Jeffrie Herrmann, Scout Executive for the South Florida Council, could not be reached for comment.

 

 

 

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