US: Court rules that Boy Scouts can lease public land despite banning gay members and leaders

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A US appeals court has ruled that the Boy Scouts of America can lease public land from the City of San Diego despite them banning gay people from being members or leaders.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said that to leases chartered by the Boy Scouts did not violate a constitutional separation of the Church and State in the US.

The case began in 2006 when a group of lesbians and agnostics objected to the leasing of the land because of the ban on gay people in the Boy Scouts movement. At the time Mark Danis, an attorney for the plaintiffs said: “San Diego city land can’t be used as the headquarters of a discriminatory organisation.”

In 2000, the organisation won a 5-4 US Supreme Court decision allowing it to ban gay people from being members or leaders.

The Boy Scouts of America announced in July that it would retain its anti-gay policy. The Boy Scouts of America has adopted positions since 1991 which state that homosexuality is “inconsistent with the Scout Oath that a Scout be morally straight and in the Scout Law that a Scout be clean in word and deed”.

The San Diego case revolves around parts of two popular city parks that are used to provide urban
children with a camping experience. The Boy Scouts pay virtually no rent in exchange for developing facilities on the land. Those suing said they would use the land but can’t because of the discriminatory policies of the Boy Scouts.

A lower court judge originally found the leases unconstitutional. But today in the judgement by the appeals court reversed that finding.

“The city’s practice of leasing its lands is by no means occasional or targeted in favor of sectarian organizations,” the court wrote.

Andrew Woodmansee, an attorney for those suing the Boy Scouts said that they will now consider the options for a further appeal.

Intel joined other companies recently in declaring that it was stopping funding Boy Scouts groups that discriminate against LGBT people.