- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

San Francisco's judges have become the first in the United States to cut ties with the Boy Scouts of America because of the organization's refusal to admit homosexuals.

The city's Superior Court judges and commissioners in response to a resolution from a local bar association have adopted a policy that prohibits them from participating as members in a chapter or branch of any organization that "discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation by excluding members on the grounds that their sexual orientation renders them 'unclean,' 'immoral,' or 'unfit.'"

"It has long been a tradition of the bench of this State, and in particular of the bench of the Superior Court in San Francisco, to respect the rights and dignity of all litigants and counsel who appear before it and to refrain from even the perception or appearance of any type of invidious discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation," said Judge Ronald Quidachay, presiding judge of the San Francisco Superior Court.

"The San Francisco bench has always appreciated the diversity of its own members and of the citizens who have occasion to deal with the court system," Judge Quidachay said. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to reconfirm that commitment."

Under the new policy, the judges and commissioners cannot be Scoutmasters, troop leaders or be a member of a governing board that is in any way affiliated with the Boy Scouts, or any other organization that excludes homosexuals. It could not be determined yesterday whether any current judges or commissioners are affiliated with the Boy Scouts.

The policy, which goes into effect immediately, has drawn criticism from legal defense organizations, including the Pacific Justice Institute, which said earlier this week that it is prepared to defend any judge who disagrees with the policy. One judge has already contacted the institute for help, officials said yesterday.

Institute officials argue such a policy is so broad that it raises the possibility that judges could be prohibited from being members of any church or synagogue that teaches against homosexuality and other nontraditional sexual lifestyles.

"The level of intolerance being leveled at the Boy Scouts by members of the state's judiciary and legal community is unwarranted and outrageous," said Brad Dacus, the institute's president. "This is a very serious situation. Judges should be protected against fascistlike filtering policies and not having to take part in some ideology. No one should have to choose between their faith and their job."

Angela Bradstreet, a lesbian who works as a lawyer with Carroll, Burdick & McDonough and is president of the Bar Association of San Francisco, said she pushed the court to approve the current policy after she read previous legal arguments in which the Boy Scouts described homosexuals as "not morally fit."

Miss Bradstreet said she is taking the initiative statewide to ensure that "there is both perception and actuality of equality and impartiality in our court system for everyone." Bar associations in Santa Clara and Alameda counties are among the groups in California now considering the initiative.

"The Bar Association was very concerned about some of the language in cases referring to homosexuals as not morally straight and unclean," Miss Bradstreet said. "We are absolutely delighted that the San Francisco Superior Court bench is taking the lead on this issue of fairness, and has been so receptive to the concerns of litigants, jurors, lawyers and other members of the San Francisco community involved with the judicial process."

The courts have been known to side with the Boy Scouts.

Statewide ethical standards, adopted by the state Supreme Court in 1995, forbid judges to join organizations that discriminate against homosexuals, unless they were "nonprofit youth organizations," which was an exception designed for the Boy Scouts.

The California Supreme Court, in two 1998 cases, upheld the Boy Scouts' refusals to admit homosexuals and atheists. The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2000 upheld the Boy Scouts' policy, saying the organization was entitled to define its own principles. The Boy Scouts argued that its code, requiring Scouts to be "morally straight" and "clean," excluded homosexuals.

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