Protest set for local Scout headquarters

Supreme Court ruling that allows organization to bar gay leaders decried

July 04, 2000|By Melody Holmes | Melody Holmes,SUN STAFF

Members of the gay community, including the Washington-based National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, plan to come to Baltimore tomorrow to protest last week's Supreme Court decision barring gay leadership in the Boy Scouts of America.

The group plans to gather tomorrow at 5 p.m. in front of Baltimore's chapter of the Boy Scouts of America at 701 Wyman Park Drive.

David Baker, a spokesman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said Baltimore is being targeted because it's "the public face of the group in Maryland."

Representatives from the Baltimore Boy Scout chapter, who Baker said have been informed of and invited to tomorrow's protest, could not be reached for comment.

The activists say the Supreme Court's decision to bar states from forcing Scout troops to accept gay leaders is discriminatory. The gay community plans a protest at Boy Scout chapters nationwide Aug. 21.

Tomorrow, Baker said, activists plan to present the Boy Scouts with a "demerit badge of homophobia" and an "order of the narrow certificate," mock awards to mark what protesters see as the organization's narrow-mindedness.

Other gay protesters who are or were Boy Scouts will attend the protest in uniform, Baker said. "Here we're having the Boy Scouts telling gay kids that they are deviants or somehow wrong. ... The Boy Scouts are taking a big step backwards."

The Supreme Court's decision Wednesday overturned a ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court in favor of James Dale. Dale, a former Eagle Scout leader in a New Jersey troop who now lives in New York, had been removed as assistant scoutmaster after a newspaper article about a Rutgers University student group revealed that he was gay.

Baker and a colleague organized the protest, which he says is not directed against the Boy Scouts. "We're protesting this ruling that discriminates against gay kids," he said.

Texas-based Boy Scouts of America, which declined to comment on the planned protest, released a statement last week saying: "We are very pleased with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Dale case. This decision affirms our standing as a private association with the right to set its own standards for membership and leadership. ... We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the Scout Oath and Law."

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