- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 8, 2004

Virginia residents will be able to buy a license plate honoring the Boy Scouts of America, along with 31 other plates the state Legislature approved this year.

Delegate Clarence E. “Bud” Phillips, Castlewood Democrat, sponsored a bill to create the special license plates at the request of scoutmasters in Southwest Virginia.

“The Boy Scouts is a strong organization for the building of strong young people in this country,” Mr. Phillips said.

But some homosexual rights activists said the license plate should not be made because the organization has banned homosexuals from joining.

Scott Cozza, president of Scouting for All, a nonprofit organization based in California, is urging Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, to rescind the Legislature’s decision to honor the Boy Scouts. He said no government should support a discriminatory agency.

“It is a sad day in America when a state honors an organization through its vehicle license plate program that discriminates against gay and atheist youth and adults,” Mr. Cozza said. “If the Boy Scouts discriminated against African-American youth and adults there would be no question that the state of Virginia would not honor [them].”

Locally, no protests have been launched, and Mr. Phillips said no groups complained when he proposed the special plates.

Dyana Mason, executive director of Equality Virginia, said opposing the license plate is not on her group’s priority list.

“We have bigger fish to fry,” she said. Her group is working with the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge a new state law that bans civil unions between same-sex couples.

The Boy Scouts of America has been in the spotlight since 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the group has the right to exclude homosexuals. Some government agencies have refused to give the organization money, citing rules preventing the use of tax dollars for groups that discriminate.

The Supreme Court in March refused to hear the Boy Scouts’ appeal of a lower court ruling that bars the Boy Scouts from sharing in the proceeds of a Connecticut-based charity because of its ban on homosexuals.

The license plate will be designed by the organization, which has 180 days to collect and submit 350 prepaid applications. If sponsors of the license plate don’t get enough applications, they don’t get the plates — but they can pay a $3,500 administrative fee that gives them an additional two years to gather the applications.

The state Legislature approved the Boy Scouts plate in 1999, but organizers did not gather enough signatures to make the plates a reality.

Earlier this year, the House voted 96-3 for legislation authorizing the Boy Scouts plate, among others. The Senate voted 38-1 to approve the measure.

Other plates approved in Virginia this year honor barbershop quartet singing enthusiasts, D.C. United soccer and bicycle enthusiasts. Each special plate costs $25.

The state also runs a revenue-sharing program in which the sponsoring organization gets $10 after the first 1,000 plates are sold.

Last year, the Department of Motor Vehicles donated $1.8 million under the program. These plates include the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Last year, Mr. Warner vetoed a “Choose Life” revenue-sharing plate that some viewed as pro-life.

Some profits raised under that bill would have gone to organizations that help pregnant women put their child up for adoption. The Legislature tried to pass the bill without Mr. Warner’s signature, but failed to get the needed two-thirds vote to overturn his ruling.

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