Press

NGLTF Urges Clinton to Sever Ties With Boy Scouts of America

Date: 
July 19, 2000

Momentum builds after anti-gay policy upheld in Supreme Court

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force today sent a letter to President Bill Clinton urging him to resign as the honorary president of the Boy Scouts of America - a position held by every president since William Henry Taft in 1910. NGLTF joins a growing chorus of community organizations, religious groups, and elected officials who demand that the President take a strong stand against discrimination.

In a letter to President Clinton, NGLTF Executive Director Elizabeth Toledo pointed out that the seeds of violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people are planted early in life. "Nothing contributes more to hate violence than for adult role models to teach that intolerance of difference is 'morally straight,'" Toledo wrote. "It would be unfortunate if all your good efforts to end hate violence were vitiated by continued association with institutionalized intolerance."

In a 5-4 ruling June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Boy Scouts' legal right to discriminate against openly gay scoutmasters. The case originated in New Jersey after Assistant Scoutmaster James Dale was expelled from the BSA upon disclosure of his homosexuality. The high court decided the case after the BSA appealed the New Jersey Supreme Court's unanimous August 1999 decision in favor of Dale. NGLTF had joined other organizations in filing a brief in support of Dale's case.

Today, NGLTF Public Information Associate Graham Segroves and legal intern Patrick Wojahn - both of whom are also Eagle Scouts - spoke at a press conference convened by California Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-Santa Rosa), one of 11 members of Congress who issued a similar call to President Clinton on July 13. Woolsey called the conference to announce the introduction of the Scouting for All Act, which would revoke the Boy Scouts' Congressional charter. Also speaking at the press conference was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.

"The Boy Scouts taught me to respect other people and to do the right thing even when that's difficult," Segroves said. "Today, as a person who has served with the Boy Scouts of America and who holds deep respect for the organization, I must ask President Clinton to show the BSA that it cannot have public affiliation if it wants hurtful discrimination."

***NOTE TO REPORTERS AND EDITORS: For a copy of Elizabeth Toledo's letter to President Clinton, please call the NGLTF Communications Department at 202-332-6483 or email a request to delliot@ngltf.org

Additional Resources: Scouting for All

Letter to the President

July 19, 2000

President William Jefferson Clinton
Office of the President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the nation’s oldest organization for the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, I am writing to ask you to resign your position of Honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America.

Since President William Howard Taft in 1910, each President of the United States of America has served as Honorary President of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) in recognition of the BSA’s role in developing citizen leaders. The Boy Scouts’ ceremonial affiliation with the Office of the President has sustained the organization’s national profile, lent credibility and quasi-public character to its activities, and carried each President’s endorsement of the BSA mission, program, and policies.

Unfortunately, the BSA leadership has decided to exclude “avowed homosexuals” from membership and leadership in the organization. As you know, the U.S. Supreme Court recently held, by a narrow 5-4 vote, that the BSA’s right of expressive association as a private organization outweighed New Jersey’s interest in eliminating invidious discrimination against gay, lesbian and bisexual people.

In arguing that its discriminatory policy is fundamental to its mission, the BSA has drastically altered its image, from an organization that teaches good citizenship and self-reliance to one that teaches bigotry and intolerance. Sadly, all the good work done by the BSA is now tainted by this policy of exclusion and divisiveness.

This is especially troubling in today’s environment, when hate crimes of all types are occurring with alarming severity and frequency. Nothing contributes more to hate violence than for adult role models to teach that intolerance of difference is “morally straight.” It would be unfortunate if all of your good efforts to end hate violence were vitiated by your continued association with institutionalized intolerance.

Mr. President, we know you do not support the BSA’s position. Your executive order prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in federal civilian employment has demonstrated your personal commitment to ensuring that fairness governs the public sphere. It is unacceptable for the BSA to claim private status and still to receive the ongoing benefits of formal affiliation with the Office of the President, as well as other public sanctioning, when its associative purpose is discriminatory.

Because the Boy Scouts of America maintains a discriminatory, offensive and dangerous policy, and because the BSA has argued that it is a private organization, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force urges you to sever immediately your honorary ties with the BSA.

In her 1939 letter of resignation from the Daughters of the American Revolution, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt expressed her disappointment with that organization for barring world-renowned singer Marian Anderson, an African American, from performing at Constitution Hall because of a DAR rule excluding all African-American artists:

“You have set an example which seems to me unfortunate, and I feel obliged to send in to you my resignation. You had an opportunity to lead in an enlightened way and it seems to me that your organization has failed. I realize that many people will not agree with me, but feeling as I do this seems to me the only proper procedure to follow.”

Mr. President, your continued endorsement of the Boy Scouts of America contradicts your policy on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and it reinforces the hurtful message being taught by the BSA: that it is acceptable to exclude and expel people who are different.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Toledo
Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.