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The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling that said the state did not violate the Scouts First Amendment rights of association when it attempted to remove the Connecticut Rivers Council from the fund-raising campaign. "The decision reaffirms that our state breaks the law if it supports organizations that discriminate," said Attorney General Richard Blumenthal on Thursday. "The legislature has prohibited discrimination by the state against gays and lesbians a ban against state support for any organization that discriminates which has now been upheld by the court." Blumenthal also recognized the Boy Scouts long history of public service, and said the group merits generous support "if legally possible."
The issue centers on a campaign every September in which state employees may donate to approved charities and organizations through a payroll deduction, and is administered in the state by the United Way. The Connecticut State Employee Campaign Committee and the states Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities had recommended removing the Scouts from the charitable fund-raising list in May 2000, based on the organizations ban on homosexuals in membership and employment. In June 2000, the Scouts filed suit in U.S. District Court in Connecticut, arguing that the state illegally used its gay-rights legislation to single out the Scouts for unfavorable treatment. They also argued that it violated the groups rights to "expressive association."
In July 2002, the court granted summary judgment in favor of the Campaign Committee and the CHRO. The Court of Appeals, located in New York City, heard the Scouts appeal in April. Judge Guido Calabresi, writing for a unanimous three-judge appellate panel, found that the states decision violated neither state law nor the First Amendment.
Harry Pokorny is executive director of the Connecticut Rivers Council, which serves more than 37,000 children and has 13,000 volunteers. "The attorneys working for us are reviewing the judges decision to determine what, if anything, is our next step," Pokorny said Thursday. "Its premature to indicate what we might do. Were just disappointed."
John D. Allen, founder of the New Haven Gay & Lesbian Community Center in 1996, said the ruling was the proper one. "I definitely agree with the ruling, first of all because the Scouts reason for discriminating is baseless," Allen said. "Think of all the gay Scouts who have gone through their system. I hope the Scouts will someday change, because discrimination is wrong."