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Boy Scouts of America: Five reasons we’ve won the battle (but not the war)

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David Boies
David Boies

2. Legal Eagles

When high-stakes litigator David Boies took on 18-year-old Eagle Scout and gay activist named Pascal Tessier as a client and threatened to sue the Boy Scout’s under New York’s anti-discrimination laws, it put Robert M. Gates, the president of the Boy Scouts of America, in a bind. Under this increased scrutiny, the Boy Scouts’ longstanding exclusionary policy would have likely fallen prey to high-profile court cases that would’ve foisted the BSA even deeper into a high-profile PR nightmare. Action had to be taken, and fast. Boies, a celebrity lawyer, built on the legal strategy of groups such as Lambda Legal and the ACLU, who had fought this battle for nearly a quarter century.

Not that Boies deserves all the credit. Evan Wolfson, marriage freedom hero, represented Scoutmaster James Dale in the landmark case Boy Scouts of America v Dale; a case that first brought the BSA’s ban on gay troops into mainstream consciousness. Yasmin Cassini, a lesbian in Colorado who lost her job running a Scout center after coming out, hired John Schiller to represent her. Schiller worked pro bono in the hopes of adding more pressure to the BSA and forcing change. “This was a very important and difficult change for such an organization,” he said after the ban was finally lifted. “I definitely think it’s the beginning of building inclusive programs… it’s halfway where we want to be.”

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