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Activist Groups Urge Obama to Reject Boy Scout Honor

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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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Defense spending bill includes Scout protections Measure could punish localities that bar anti-gay discrimination


By ELIZABETH WEILL-GREENBERG

Friday, December 23, 2005

With little notice, the House passed a defense spending bill with a provision that could help youth groups circumvent local laws that bar
discrimination based on sexual orientation.

A part of the bill reads that state or town governments that receive federal housing funds and community development money cannot deny equal access to facilities to the Boy Scouts or other youth groups, including the Police Athletic League, the Young Marines, the National Guard
Challenge Program and the Naval Sea Cadets Corp.

Democratic Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts tried to convince the conference committee that was working on a final version of the defense bill to strike the provision. but the request was denied. Frank also sent an angry letter to the committee, urging its members to drop the language.

The provision "was clearly intended to insulate the Boy Scouts of America from any federal actions against their anti-gay policy," according to a statement from Frank's office.

"The Boy Scouts of America have been found by states and cities to be violating their anti-discrimination policies with regard to both sexual
orientation and religion, and some cities have said that they do not want anyone who fails to follow their state or city's policy getting free
facilities," said Frank, who is gay, during debate over the measure.

He also criticized the Republican leadership for hiding the provision in the dense bill and usurping the rights of states to enforce anti-discrimination laws. The Senate was expected to vote on the defense bill late this week.

"[I]t does not seem to me that there is any argument for having it in the Armed Services authorization bill in a Congress run by supposed states
rights conservatives‚ a provision that says to every city in America you will let the Boy Scouts use your facilities for free whether or not you think they violate the law against discrimination based on religion or sexual orientation," Frank told Congress.

The Boy Scout ban on atheists and gays has triggered several lawsuits. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts could ban gay members from its ranks.

Last year, the Supreme Court refused to hear a Connecticut discrimination case involving the Boy Scouts. Connecticut's Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities refused to include the Boy Scouts on a list of charities that state employees can donate to because the Boy Scouts violate the state's prohibition against sexual orientation discrimination.

In 2000, the ACLU of San Diego sued the San Diego City Council for a lease with the Boy Scouts. Under the terms of the lease, the Scouts had access to 18 acres of park property for $1 a year and free access to a water facility. The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of two families‚ a same-sex couple with a 10-year-old son and a family of agnostics with a 9-year-old son. In July 2003, a federal district court ruled that the
lease violated the separation of church and state.

"[Anti-discrimination] laws have been used in a number of places to prevent groups like the Boy Scouts from using public property," said
Michael Adams, director of education and public affairs with Lambda Legal. "This is a provision clearly designed to circumvent that and override policies enacted by local government and replace them with a federal mandate."

He said that the provision "blackmails" local governments with federal funds if they enforce their anti-discrimination laws.

 

 

 

Scouting For All is not an alternative scouting program.
We are an education and advocacy organization reaching out to gay and nontheist youth and adults in our effort to get the Boy Scouts of America to rescind its exlusionary policy.

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