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Supreme Court declines to hear Lesbian couple's suit against Boy Scouts

A lesbian couple and an agnostic couple are suing to prevent the Boy Scouts from using public land. The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal in the case, which returns to the Ninth Circuit.

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The Boy Scout campsite and aquatic center were built by the scouting organization for an estimated $4.9 million. In addition to providing scouts with a place to camp and participate in water activities, the facilities are also open to the public for a fee.

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The couples said they would like to use those portions of the public parks, but that they were so offended by the exclusionary policies of the Boy Scouts that they avoid those sections of the parks.

Lawyers for the couples say their clients are personally affected by the Boy Scout leases because the required public access fees “amount to a toll payable to a discriminatory, religious organization to use public property.”

The families cannot visit those sections of the parks “without gaining approval from and submitting themselves under dominion and control of an organization that openly rejects their beliefs and sexual orientation,” Washington lawyer Seth Galanter wrote in his brief. “Even if they did access it, their enjoyment would be diminished by having to view symbols of the [Boy Scouts’] presence and dominion on the land.”

Lawyers for the Boy Scouts said the families’ claim is “contrived.” The families choose not to visit certain sections of the city parks, the lawyers said, because they’d have to “interact with people they don’t like.” The lawyers added that any alleged injury was of the families’ own making.

Fireworks in the Ninth Circuit

Although the Supreme Court dismissed the case without comment, the issue sparked vigorous debate when it was decided earlier at the Ninth Circuit.

“Today, our court promulgates an astonishing new rule of law for the nine Western states. Henceforth, a plaintiff who claims to feel offended by the mere thought of associating with people who hold different views has suffered a legally cognizable injury-in-fact,” wrote Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain in a dissent. He added that the Ninth Circuit decision “creates a new legal landscape in which almost anyone who is almost offended by almost anything has standing to air his or her displeasure in court.”

In a concurrence to the Ninth Circuit opinion, Judge Marsha Berzon rejected suggestions that the dispute was a minor “disagreement.”

She wrote: “There is not merely offense here but injury too. To use Camp Balboa and the Mission Bay Park Youth Aquatic Center, the plaintiffs must not just observe the presence of the Boy Scouts, but also interact with, seek permission from, and quite significantly, pay fees to, this same organization that believes them inferior in both morals and citizenship.”

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