BSA Wins in Court
Henry Mowry (hmowry@SCV.NET)
Fri, 23 May 1997 08:14:39 -0700
LA Times, 5/23/97
*** State Court Upholds Firing of Gay Scout Leader ***
San Diego -- A state appellate court ruled Thursday that the Boy Scouts
of America had the right to fire a police officer as a Boy Scout leader
because he is gay.
Superior Court Judge Anthony Joseph had ruled in 1994 that the Boy
Scouts violated the rights of El Cajon Police Officer Chuck Merino when
it fired him as a volunteer leader of an Explorers post. Merino is
Merino, 41, a police officer for 19 years, had been the leader for four
years and earned praise from Scout leader and Scouts alike. He was
fired in 1992 after he told a community meeting discussing gay-bashing
in his neighborhood that he was gay.
Merino said he will appeal Thursday's ruling to the California Supreme
"I started something and I think it is important to see it through,"
Merino said. "The Boy Scouts need to learn to judge people as
individuals, not put everyone in a group and make judgements about
them. For them to say I lack family values is ludicrous."
Darrell Watkins, assistant Scout executive for the Desert-Pacific
Council, which governs the Boy Scouts in San Diego and Imperial
counties, said he is glad the appeals court "has affirmed our right to
establish and maintain leadership standards and to ensure that our
leaders serve as role models for the values of Boy Scouts."
The firing of Merino polarized San Diego County as gay leaders demanded
that San Diego kick the Boy Scouts out of their quarters in city-owned
Balboa Park and Fiesta Island, and the El Cajon and San Diego police
severed ties with the Boy Scouts. But the Sheriff's Department
exspressed solidarity with the Scouts and some political and civic
leaders rallied behind the organizations.
On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal
ruled unanimously that the Boy Scouts are not a business organization
and therefore do not fall under the state law and local ordinance
banning discrimination against gays.
Justice Richard Huffman, in a concurring opinion, went even further,
saying that because the Boy Scouts have expressed a belief that
homosexuals are not proper role models, forcing the group to retain a
gay leader would violate the groups 1st amendment right to freedom of
Huffman wrote, "The message [the Boy Scouts] seek to convey to its
membership does not include approval of homosexual conduct by a person
who is acting as an appropriate role model and moral example. Moreover,
some of the religious entities with which [Boy Scouts] is affiliated
strongly disapprove of homosexual conduct.
In 1994, an appellate court in Los Angeles issued a similar ruling in a
case of a gay man refused a Boy Scout post in Berkeley; that ruling is
to be considered by the California Supreme Court. Once the state high
court makes a decision, it will apply to all cases, including the Merino
Judge Joseph's decision in the Merino case had bee hailed by gay and
lesbian leaders because it marked the first time a court had ruled that
the Boy Scouts could not discriminate on the basis of sexual
orientation. In the Berkeley case now before the Supreme Court, the
trial court had found in favor of the Boy Scouts.
In court, lawyers for the local Boy Scouts argued that the Scouts'
national charter opposes homosexuality and states that the group does
not knowingly employ gays or lesbians. To fund the legal fight, the
Scouts sent letters to parents of Scouts expressing the importance of
Merino said his lawsuit has helped alert the public "about these
outdated and homophobic policies of the Boy Scouts."
Watkins said the lawsuit has unfairly drawn attention away "from the
reasons the Boy Scouts exist: to promote citizenship training, character
development and personal fitness.
Yours in Scouting,
Cubmaster & Webelos Den Leader, Pack 575, Santa Clarita, CA
Bill Hart District Cub Roundtable Commissioner
ASM, National Jamboree Troop 911, Western LA County Council
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City