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Boy Scouts of Am. v. Dale - 530 U.S. 640, 120 S. Ct. 2446 (2000)

Rule:

To determine whether a group is protected by the First Amendment's expressive associational right, a court must determine whether the group engages in "expressive association." The First Amendment's protection of expressive association is not reserved for advocacy groups. But to come within its ambit, a group must engage in some form of expression, whether it be public or private.

Facts:

The Boy Scouts of America was a private and not-for-profit organization engaged in instilling the Boy Scouts' system of values in young people, and asserted that homosexual conduct was inconsistent with those values. Respondent Dale was an adult whose position as assistant scoutmaster of a New Jersey troop was revoked when the Boy Scouts learned that he was an avowed homosexual and gay rights activist. He filed suit in the New Jersey Superior Court, alleging that the Boy Scouts had violated the state statute prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in places of public accommodation. The Superior Court's Chancery Division granted summary judgment in favor of the Boy Scouts. On appeal, the Superior Court's Appellate Division reversed the lower court's decision, rejecting the Boy Scouts' constitutional claims and ruling that the state's public accommodations law applied to the Boy Scouts. It further held that the Boy Scouts had violated the law. The New Jersey Supreme Court, in affirming, expressed the view that the Boy Scouts had violated the public accommodations law by revoking Dale's membership on the basis of his avowed homosexuality. Moreover, the state supreme court ruled that the application of the public accommodations law did not violate the Boy Scouts' right of expressive association under the Federal Constitution's First Amendment. 

Issue:

Did the application of the state's public accommodations law violate the Boy Scouts' right of expressive association under the Federal Constitution’s First Amendment?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the application of New Jersey's public accommodations law to require the Boy Scouts to admit the assistant scoutmaster violated the Boy Scouts' First Amendment right of expressive association, as, among other matters, the Boy Scouts engaged in expressive activity, and sincerely asserted the view that homosexual conduct was inconsistent with the Boy Scouts' values. The Court further held that requiring the Boy Scouts to accept the assistant scoutmaster would significantly affect the Boy Scouts' expression, by interfering with the Boy Scouts' choice not to propound a point of view contrary to the Boy Scouts' beliefs. Moreover, the Court ruled that the state interests embodied in the public accommodations law did not justify such a severe intrusion. The judgment was reversed, and the cause was remanded for further proceedings

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