When I began making phone calls for a story about the financial
repercussions of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to allow the Boy Scouts of
America to continue its policy of excluding gays, among other people,
I realized that the issue was much more than a blow for the plaintiff,
James Dale. It was an important story for the entire gay community and,
indeed, spread beyond gays and lesbians, proving how far this country
has come in recent years.
Less than two weeks after the nation's highest court ruled that the Boy
Scouts were justified in kicking out Dale, a former Eagle Scout and
a gay-rights activist at Rutgers University, the community
refocused its efforts. It argued that corporate America and governmental
agencies should face serious backlash if they continued supporting an
openly anti-gay organization.
The efforts caused school districts such as San Francisco, Chicago, New
York City and Broward County, Fla. to question their relationships with
the Scouts. Los Angeles and New York City also debated cutting city
ties with the organization, which would negatively impact vital programs
such as Explorers, which trains underprivileged youth to become police
officers. Sending the message that homophobia is OK was strong enough to
risk ending beneficial programs for minorities, according to activists.
Moreover, corporate donations have dwindled and United Way support has
The 37 amicus briefs filed by groups such as the American Federation of
Teachers, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and
National Council of Jewish Women made up one of the most diverse
coalitions to come before the Supreme Court on a gay-rights case. This is an
issue that divided and united Americans.
Many think this is a lose-lose situation. Is it better to drive
minority-youth programs into the ground or save them by allowing an anti-gay
group to control them? I think the story's continued presence in newspapers
and news Web sites since the June Supreme Court decision proves that the
gay-rights and, simply, equal-rights voice is loud and authoritative. The
youth of America is growing up during a time of inequality, but a time
when their voice counts more than ever and divisions between race, gender,
sexuality disability, et al. are falling down. The Boy Scouts decision is an
important one because the decision-making process didn't end with the
Supreme Court. It continues every day with the gay scouts who decide to hide or
speak out and the heterosexual scouts who fight for or against the national
organization. Youth may not be the policy makers, but their actions directly
impact the future.