Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000)

Primary tabs

Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale (2000) is a Supreme Court of the United States case that revolves around the right to freedom of association under the First Amendment.  In this case, respondent Dale was an Eagle Scout member of the petitioner organization, Boy Scouts of America (“BSA”).  BSA revoked Dale’s membership upon discovering that Dale identified as a homosexual, reasoning that BSA’s values conflict with Dale’s homosexual activity.  Dale brought a suit against BSA in New Jersey Superior Court alleging discrimination on the basis on sexual orientation under New Jersey’s public accommodations statute.  The State Court decided in favor of Dale and the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed

The Supreme Court, upon a writ of certiorari, reversed the lower court, holding that BSA had the freedom to express its views under the First Amendment and forcing BSA to admit certain members may imping on that freedom (particularly freedom of association).  The court stated that the freedom of association under the First Amendment included the “freedom to not associate.”  Therefore, a private organization cannot be forced to accept members whose beliefs conflict with the organization’s beliefs.  Justice Stevens’ dissenting opinion pointed out that nothing in the founding principles of BSA actually clashed with homosexuality; and, the majority’s decision only enabled discrimination against homosexuals.

This case established expressive association as an important First Amendment right.  Many civil rights organizations considered this as a blow to LGBTQ rights in America.

[Last updated in May of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]