- The Washington Times - Friday, June 22, 2001

The D.C. Commission on Human Rights Wednesday ordered two homosexual troop leaders reinstated to the Boy Scouts of America nearly one year after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Scouts right to ban homosexuals.
A tribunal ruled the Boy Scouts violated the Districts Human Rights Act of 1977 by revoking the memberships of Michael Geller and Roland Pool "in a place of public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation."
The ruling, which local officials say carries the force of law in the District, sets aside what the U.S. Supreme Court termed the Scouts First Amendment rights to "expressive association."
"Were disappointed by the ruling. We feel very strongly that the Supreme Court decision of a year ago entitles us to make these decisions," said spokesman Gregg Shields of the Dallas-based Boy Scouts of America.
The commission, which comprises 15 city residents appointed by the mayor, ordered the Boy Scouts to "cease and desist from revoking memberships of individuals solely because of their status as homosexuals."
The only requirement for sitting on the commission, according to city code, is a "demonstrated background or interest in human rights."
The ruling calls for the reinstatement of Mr. Pool and Mr. Geller, and orders $50,000 in compensatory damages to be paid by the Scouts to each complainant. The organization is also ordered to pay attorneys fees and the cost of adjudication.
"Im certainly overjoyed and thrilled at the commissions decision," Mr. Geller said yesterday.
Mr. Geller, 38, works at the World Bank. He joined the Cub Scouts on his 11th birthday, the first day he was eligible, and became an Eagle Scout six years later in 1979. From 1980 through 1992, Mr. Geller was registered as an adult leader.
He became aware he was a homosexual in 1983, but didnt become aware of the Scouts policy banning homosexuals until February 1992, when he read a newspaper article containing a statement from a Scout official saying the exclusion was a nationwide policy. When Mr. Geller wrote a letter protesting the policy, he was ordered to sever all relations with the Scouts.
Mr. Pool said he became aware he was homosexual at the age of 13 but did not discuss his sexuality with fellow Scouts. A D.C. resident since 1987, Mr. Pool worked as a geologist at the Smithsonians Museum of Natural History and entered Wesley Theological Seminary in 1997. He was an Eagle Scout and was an active adult Scout leader until 1985. Mr. Pool also discovered the Scouts ban on homosexuals through a newspaper article and was directed by the American Civil Liberties Union to join the lawsuit.
The ruling, which comes after nine years of litigation, cites guidelines established by the U.S. Supreme Court last year when it overturned the decision of the New Jersey state Supreme Court and found that the Scouts can exclude homosexuals. On a 5-4 decision, the high court said the Scouts were justified in ejecting assistant scoutmaster James Dale, now 30, whose photograph in the Newark Star-Ledger in 1990 identified him as co-president of the Rutgers University Lesbian/Gay Alliance.
Wednesdays ruling seized on Mr. Dales role as an activist and said that since Mr. Pool and Mr. Geller "are not advocating any particular message, their inclusion into an adult leader position would not infringe on BSAs core message."
The commission revisited the high courts four-step criteria to determine whether a group is protected by "expressive association" rights under the First Amendment, questioning whether the group "engages in 'expressive association; whether the forced inclusion of an individual would significantly affect the groups ability to advocate public and private viewpoints; whether the presence of an individual would significantly burden the groups desire not to promote a particular viewpoint; and whether the groups First Amendment right to expressive association is outweighed by the states interest in eliminating discrimination within public accommodations."
The commission said the Scouts policies toward homosexuals are vague at best and that mention of a written policy excluding them only dates back to 1978. Further, it cited the Districts "compelling interest, over First Amendment rights, in eliminating discrimination in public accommodations."
The 15 commissioners are unpaid, and serve overlapping three-year terms. Members are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the D.C. Council. Charged with investigating violations of the act, it handed down a similar ruling in 1989 when a homosexual man was rejected as a volunteer for Big Brothers of the National Capital Area.
Last month, an Illinois appellate court found in favor of a homosexual man who claimed he was discriminated against by the Scouts after seeking a "non-message position" within the organization. But most resistance to the Dale ruling has come from local governments, like Montgomery County, which have withdrawn the Scouts free meeting space.
While Mr. Geller said he sees himself "being accepted back in the fold," he is also preparing for an appeal. The decision allows the Scouts to file an appeal in D.C. court within 30 days.
"Were reviewing the conclusion of the commission, and once we have reviewed it we will make some further decisions how to proceed," he said.

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