James Dale spent more than a decade fighting what he alleged was illegal discrimination after he was dismissed as a Boy Scout troop leader in 1990 for being gay. This weekend he spoke at the Michigan League and participated in a fundraiser for the Office of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Affairs 30-year anniversary, sharing his story with the Ann Arbor community.
“It”s a really good time to be talking about what America stands for, what patriotism is and where civil rights fit in with all of that,” he said. “People are starting to get involved, trying to understand the issues and that”s what America is about conversation, standing up for the right thing you have to be a part of it. You have to demand full equality you won”t always get it but we”ve made incredible strides,” Dale said.
Dale”s case started in New Jersey, eventually making its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On June 28, 2000, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Boy Scouts of America had the right to keep homosexuals from being troop leaders because of the organization”s rights to free expression and free association as a private group.
Dale said he never thought it was possible to lose in the Supreme Court and still win, but he added that he feels he has gained a victory by bringing these issues to the forefront of public attention and making people reconsider what kind of messages they”re sending to today”s children.
“Since then, America has responded and it has gone from an issue about Boy Scouts to something bigger, how is America supporting LGBT youth,” he said. “I”m happy I had a part in bringing about a conversation but it”s not about me, it”s about our kids and what”s best for America”s youth. The success we”ve had isn”t about any one person, it”s about all of us.”
The fundraiser was held at the Aut Bar and raised more than $650, which will be used to support 30th Anniversary programming or staff internship payment, said Frederic MacDonald-Dennis, director of the Office of LGBT Affairs.
MacDonald-Dennis also commented on the importance of community education and the relevance of Dale”s case to current events on campus.
“I think it”s important for students to know about civil rights and discrimination and to educate the community about it,” he said. “We always try to bring interesting speakers for exposure for students and we thought he was a good one.”
MacDonald-Dennis said that discrimination in the Boy Scouts strikes home especially now as there”s talk around campus about the University”s relation to the United Way, which funds the organization. Those opposing University ties to the United Way say that having the University connected to a group that funds a discriminatory organization goes against the school”s non-discrimination policy.
School of Social Work graduate student Foula Dimopoulos said she attended the fundraiser because she believes in the safe space the Office of LGBT Affairs provides for students, faculty and staff that they might not have otherwise and because she wanted to support the LGBT community.
Dimopoulos also said she thinks James Dale”s presence was important because it brought a human face to the discrimination many face within the LGBT community.
“What impresses me the most is that he went all the way to the Supreme Court to challenge unfair laws,” she said. “Kids need heroes and it shouldn”t matter who their heroes love or fall in love with.”