California Supreme Court Sinks Sea Scouts Case

A city government may deny benefits to a branch of the Boy Scouts because of the group’s refusal to adhere to anti-discrimination policies, the California Supreme Court has ruled.

In a March 9 unanimous ruling, the court concluded that Berkeley did not violate the constitutional rights of the Sea Scouts, an affiliate of the Boy Scouts, when it denied the organization free berths in the city’s marina.

The Sea Scouts sued the city in the late 1990s after free berthing rights at the Berkeley Marina were discontinued because the group discriminates against gays and atheists. The Sea Scouts, represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, sued the city, arguing that its free speech and association rights had been violated.

Ruling in Evans v. City of Berkeley, the state’s high court sided with Berkeley’s anti-discrimination policy.

“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,” wrote Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar. “We further agree Berkeley reasonably concluded the Sea Scouts did not and could not provide assurances because of their required adherence to the BSA’s [Boy Scouts of America] discriminatory policies.”

An attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation told the Contra Costa Times that an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is under consideration.