In a 5-4 ruling written by the now-deceased conservative icon William Rehnquist, the court ruled the First Amendment’s free speech protections gave the Scouts the right to ban gays.
“Forcing a group to accept certain members may impair the ability of the group to express those views, and only those views, it intends to express,” the court found.
The Boy Scouts of America, for its part, has the view that “homosexual conduct” contradicts the club’s expressed value that its participants be “morally straight” and “clean,” Rehnquist wrote.
And it’s not the job of the courts to “reject a group’s expressed values because they disagree with those values or find them internally inconsistent,” he added.
The opinion prompted a dissent from the court’s more liberal wing, which said the Scouts never demonstrated that homosexuality was incompatible with the organisation’s mission, The New York Times reported in 2000.
Justice John Paul Stevens noted that there had recently been “remarkable changes in attitudes about homosexuals,” The Times reported.
In just a few months, the Supreme Court will take up gay rights once again when it hears two big gay marriage cases.
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