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Supreme Court won't review CA city's move against Boy Scouts

The anti-gay position of the Boy Scouts is coming home to roost, as the U.S. Supreme Court turned away a California case brought by the Berkeley Sea Scouts after the group was denied the use of a public boat slip by the city because of the nonprofit organization’s policy of rejecting atheist and gay members in its ranks. (Advocate):

The leader of the Sea Scouts argued that forcing the group to pay for a berth at the marina violated the group’s free speech and freedom of association rights. The U.S. high court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts have the right to bar openly gay scout leaders, a decision that rested on the Scouts’ First Amendment rights.

Even so, the California supreme court said in March, local governments are under no obligation to extend benefits to organizations that discriminate. Berkeley, home of free speech protests since the 1960s, adopted a nondiscrimination policy on the use of its marina in 1997 and revoked the Sea Scouts’ subsidy a year later.

The Sea Scouts is a branch of the Boy Scouts that teaches sailing, carpentry, and plumbing. City officials had told the group that it could retain its berthing subsidy if it broke ties with the Boy Scouts or disavowed the policy against gays and atheists, but the Sea Scouts refused.

Eugene Evans, who leads the Sea Scouts, has been paying $500 a month out of his own pocket to berth one boat at the Berkeley Marina; the group removed two other boats because it could not afford the rent. The group has about 40 members, down from as many as 100 before the subsidy was removed.

You’ve got to pay to play, folks.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding