James Dale spent most of his young life working with the Boy Scouts of America. He ultimately achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and volunteered as an assistant scoutmaster until 1990 when the Boy Scouts of America expelled him for no longer meeting their standards of morality as he was gay. Dale was 19-years-old at the time and a 12-year member of the Scouts.
As a Rutgers University sophomore Dale was elected co-president of the gay student union and spoke to high school teachers about reducing the risk of teen suicide. Days after being quoted in a local newspaper, Dale received a letter stating that he no longer met the Boy Scout's standards of morality.
Although only 19 years old, Dale followed his core beliefs and contacted the non-profit civil rights group Lambda Legal Defense, who filed his suit for reinstatement into the Boy Scouts. After many delays in the legal system the case grew stronger when New Jersey expanded its non-discrimination law.
In a 1995 decision against Dale, a judge called him a "sodomite" and generated national attention as he quoted from the Bible, declaring homosexuality "criminal and immoral." That ruling was overturned in 1998 by a state appellate court and one year later the New Jersey Supreme Court handed down a landmark civil rights decision, ruling unanimously that anti-gay discrimination violated state law.
The Boy Scouts appealed their loss to the U.S. Supreme Court on First Amendment freedom of association grounds, and Dale's case was heard on the last day of the 1999-2000 term. Two months later, a deeply divided Court ruled 5-4 that the Scouts had the right to expel gay youth and leaders. The one-vote majority stated that the Scouts' right to "free association" would be violated if the organization were forced to admit those who disagree with Scouting values, as defined by the national board of the Boy Scouts of America.
Since the ruling, corporations, schools and individual citizens have begun to disassociate themselves from the Boy Scouts of America, continuing to stand up in a show of support for gay and lesbian civil rights. Many religious and deeply conservative organizations have redoubled their efforts to support the Boy Scouts of America, but the pinch is being felt as many refuse to participate in active discrimination against gay and bisexual men. Courts in many states have upheld the rights of these individuals and organizations to disassociate themselves from the Boy Scouts' mindless anti-homosexual bigotry.
Today, James Dale lives in New York City and works as the vice president of a healthcare publishing company. He also serves on advisory boards of GenderPAC and the global YouthAIDS initiative. Dale regularly speaks to universities and business about personal empowerment and the social marketing of civil rights and HIV prevention. He recently documented his travels to Egypt in an article in the Advocate magazine. James is vice president at Smart + Strong, the company that publishes Poz magazine.
"Yes, I would have cherished a Supreme Court victory in 2000, but the defeat helped to propel the conversation about our civil rights to another level. For that reason, I now realize I've won."
Dale's message is of diversity, tolerance, and understanding. His presentations remind audiences of their responsibility to affect change in their own lives and to affect positive change in the world around us all.