Well, let's look at it this way: four of them voted for gay rights.
The U.S. Supreme Court's relatively predictable 5-4 split on whether the Boy Scouts can discriminate based on sexual orientation at least helped draw the line in the sand.
If the Boy Scouts want to be a private group that discriminates, something most American institutions are not allowed to do, the Supreme Court is saying that's their constitutional right.
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But that puts the Boy Scouts squarely on the other side of the line. What sits opposite the Scouts? City, county, state and federal government funding. Grants from non-profits which have non-bias policies. And millions of individual Americans who believe gays and lesbians deserve equal rights.
The Supreme Court has an equal right to read the law how they want to. After all, they, too are human beings who can't help that they grew up in a bigoted society. The courts in the past have used the law of the land to uphold slavery and to deny whole classes of people the right to vote. The times they are a changin', and it just takes the courts, especially the Supreme Court, a little while to catch up.
In the meantime, the real battle will be local, because all politics, and most Boy Scout funding, is local. The City of Chicago, the counties of Cook, DuPage, Lake and others, and the state of Illinois should be put on notice. Our tax dollars should not be used to sanction bigotry. Let the Scouts claim they have no gay Scouts or gay leaders. But do not fund the Scouts with our money, and do not allow the Scouts to use public facilities to enforce their "morally straight" and "clean" image.
In some ways, like the vicious and hateful words of Fred Phelps, a ruling such as this one in the Boy Scouts case actually makes gay rights a more attainable goal. Most Americans—those who do not equate "homosexuality" with "pedophilia," those who realize gay youth are an integral part of society, and those who feel discrimination is wrong—are probably shocked that in the year 2000, the Supreme Court can sanction bigotry. Taken to its extreme, does this mean the Boy Scouts could eliminate Black troop leaders? If the Scouts thought Blacks were not "morally straight" and "clean," could they say they did not want Blacks? Or Latinos? Or Jews?
Being gay is something a person is. It is not something a person proclaims or avows. However, because sexuality is often very well hidden, just talking about being a gay person is often seen as "activism." Merely to be an out gay or lesbian person meets some people's standard for activism. Therefore, the Scouts want gays to just shut up—their civilian "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" flies in the face of their goals of honesty and integrity. Both for the troop leaders and for the boys who scout.
Most youth organizations have joined the new millennium of diversity and understanding. The Girls Scouts do not discriminate against lesbian youth or troop leaders, and their organization has not been hurt by this inclusion.
What's interesting in all of the arguments is that the Boy Scouts themselves were founded by a man who, if you look at his correspondence, was likely very gay himself. And add to that the irony that the Boy Scouts' leadership in Texas is being accused of falsifying enrollment in order to get funding, and you see an organization mired in the sludge of questionable ethical and moral behavior. They themselves could not meet their own "morally straight" and "clean" standards. Perhaps by diverting attention to their allegedly homosexually free Scouts zones, they hope the spotlight shines away from their own crises.
There are alternatives, including Scouting For All, the Girl Scouts, 4-H, Campfire Boys and Girls, and Boys and Girls Clubs. And including thousands of public and private groups geared toward the ever-changing and diverse youth population of the U.S. In addition, many Boy Scouts groups in other countries are more progressive—perhaps the U.S. Boy Scouts should be kicked out of the international Scouting organization?
The highest court in our land may not be ready to stick their necks out, but there are many government and private institutions which prop up the Scouts. Our next goal must be to convince those institutions and government agencies to put their money where their gay-supportive mouths are.
Scouting For All founder Steven Cozza said it best: "United Way's board ought to ask itself, 'How can we justify funding a program that discriminates against a group of our youths? What if they were discriminating against Black kids?' Would the United Way flinch and say, 'We don't want to hurt those inner-city white kids the program serves'" by cutting off their funding?
Move our public and private funds to a more respectful and inclusive alternative. There is more than one way to help a young kid, and supporting a discriminatory group should not even be on the funding list.
The Supreme Court's actions should also draw a line in the sand for anyone who cares about the future of civil-rights in American society. Why? Because when we elect a president, we in effect elect members of the Supreme Court. Because the president gets to appoint them ( with approval ) , presidents are able to influence many generations with these appointments.
Do we really want George Bush Jr. to influence the rights and laws for several generations of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people to come? You may feel lukewarm about the differences between Gore and Bush, but there would be a very clear difference between who each man would appoint to run the government, and especially who they would appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Thanks to Chief Justice Rehnquist and his colleagues for that harsh reminder last week in Boys Scouts v. James Dale.