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Grant number like: FT-57478-10

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Richard J. Ellis
Willamette University (Salem, OR 97301-3922)

Summer Stipends
Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
5/1/2010 – 9/30/2010

The Freedom to Discriminate: The Case of Boy Scouts of America v. James Dale

Liberal democracies cannot avoid the fundamental conflict between, on the one hand, the freedom to associate with those who share our values, goals, or commitments and, on the other hand, the right to be free from invidious discrimination. In this book project I examine this tension through the lens of a struggle that pitted the Boy Scouts of America against a nineteen year old scoutmaster who the Scouts terminated after discovering he was homosexual. Eventually James Dale's case reached the United States Supreme Court, which ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that the Scouts had a constitutional right to exclude Dale. My aim in this book is not only to reconstruct the legal arguments and judicial decision-making process but to tell the story of Dale's personal journey and its intersection with the evolving gay rights movement as well as to understand why the Boy Scouts adopted and subsequently adhered to a policy that jeopardized the organization's iconic place in American culture.