- Evans v. Berkeley
Evans v. Berkeley is a major court case which upheld the right of governmental entities to withhold support from non-profit organizations that practice discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and religion.
The Sea Scouts is a nautical-themed youth organization that is part of
Boy Scouts of America. The Boy Scouts of America have policies forbidding gays and atheists from participating in its organization, and these policies also apply to Sea Scouts units.
For over 50 years, the City of Berkeley, CA had provided the Sea Scouts with free use of a [berth] in the City's marina. In 1997, the City passed a resolution requiring that in order to receive free use of the marina, non-profit organizations must "demonstrate" through "membership policies and practices" that it “promote [s] cultural and ethnic diversity.” The resolution also required that access to the marina "not be predicated on a person’s race, color, religion... age, sex, [or] sexual orientation".
Based on the Boy Scouts of America's policy of excluding gays and atheists from participation within its organization, the City of Berkeley decided that continued subsidy of the Sea Scouts would violate the resolution. As a result, the City terminated the free usage arrangement, and began billing the Sea Scouts the standard rent of $500 per month for the amount of berth space it uses.
In response, a member of the Sea Scouts, Eugene Evans, and thirteen other members of the Sea Scouts sued the City of Berkeley. They alleged that the City's actions violated their Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Association.
A trial court ruled against the Sea Scouts, holding that "Berkeley had not 'attempted to muzzleanyone’s speech' or force the Sea Scouts to sever their association with BSA, but had only 'conditioned a city subsidy on compliance with nondiscrimination principles'."
In March 2006, the California Supreme Court unanimously upheld the lower courts rulings and found against the Sea Scouts::"We agree with Berkeley and the Court of Appeal that a government entity may constitutionally require a recipient of funding or subsidy to provide written, unambiguous assurances of compliance with a generally applicable nondiscrimination policy. We further agree Berkeley reasonably concluded the Sea Scouts did not and could not provide satisfactory assurances because of their required adherence to BSA’s discriminatory policies."
In July 2006 Evans "et al." appealed to the
United States Supreme Court.
On October 16, 2006, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal from Evans without comment, thus allowing the California decision to stand.
Boy Scouts of America membership controversies
* [http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/03/09/MNG58HLAMK4.DTL "Court rules Berkeley can withdraw Scouts' rent subsidy"] Article on the case and final decision from the San Francisco Chronicle.
* [http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S112621.PDF California Supreme Court Ruling] (pdf)
* [http://www.scoutingforall.org/articles/2006031317.shtml Scouting for All's Discussion of the case] from a site critical of the Boy Scouts of America.
* [http://www.bsalegal.org/evansdec-247.htm Boy Scouts Legal Issues: Evans Decision] . From the Boy Scouts of America point of view.
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