New York attorney general warns Boy Scouts on discrimination

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York's attorney general's office wrote this week to the Boy Scouts of America nationally, advising that state and city laws prohibit hiring discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The letter from Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke to Chief Scout Executive Wayne Brock, dated Monday, notes the organization's national policy adopted in 2013 prohibits denying youth membership based on orientation but bans openly gay adults.

The New York City chapter, with more than 46,000 scouts, recently hired the nation's first openly gay Eagle Scout as a summer camp leader anyway, in keeping with its own policy. Board member Richard Mason said Tuesday that the chapter has notified the national office about the hire and received "no comment or feedback" about it. He said the chapter looks forward to the new summer camp leader working in the camp program this summer.

In the letter, Clarke requested documents about the national group's ban on openly gay adults, its influence on local councils and any hiring rejections based on sexual orientation in New York, which has 16 local councils. She asked for information and documents since Jan. 1, 2013.

"New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is committed to ensuring equal protection under the law for all New Yorkers, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals who live and work in New York," Clarke wrote, citing specific state and city statutes governing employment, pay and other workplace conditions. "Entities that operate in or are registered to do business in the state of New York must comply with these anti-discrimination requirements."

Deron Smith, spokesman for the national office of Boy Scouts of America, said Tuesday that the organization has nothing to add at this time.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision in 2000, upheld the Boy Scouts' right to exclude gays, reversing a New Jersey Supreme Court decision that the organization had to re-admit an expelled gay assistant scoutmaster. The majority concluded the private nonprofit's First Amendment right of expressive association was violated by New Jersey's public accommodations law.