The Boy Scouts of America is in a court battle to continue to be allowed to expel scouts and scoutmasters who are gay.
The case was triggered when the organisation kicked out 18 year old Philadelphia scout Greg Lattera after he appeared on local television talking about being gay while wearing his uniform in 2003. He had earned 32 merit badges after ten years as a scout at the time of his expulsion.
In response, the city of Philadelphia demanded that the local chapter of the organisation renounce the Scouts’ national anti-gay policies or leave its city owned headquarter premises that it has been renting for $1 a year since 1928.
According to Philadelphia, the Scouts’ policies are in direct contravention of the city’s anti-discrimination laws. The chapter then sued the city in an attempt to stop it from terminating the lease.
The Boy Scouts of America’s right to expel gays has been upheld by US courts numerous times in the past on the basis that it is a private organisation and thus has a right to define its membership criteria.
In a 2004 statement, the organisation said: “Boy Scouts of America believes that homosexual conduct is inconsistent with the obligations in the Scout Oath and Scout Law to be morally straight and clean in thought, word, and deed.”
Lattera, who is now 25, testified in the case on Monday on behalf of the city. He said that he did not regret his actions.
“It was probably the only thing I had going for me when I was younger,” Lattera said in court about his time as a scout.
“I would encourage people to this day to still put their kids in scouting. I took so much away from it. It’s made me a better person.”
Lattera was the final witness in the case and closing arguments will take place today.
The Boy Scouts of America has refused to adopt the World Organization of the Scout Movement’s more inclusive and non-discriminatory policy towards gay scouts.