Thoughts on Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000)

In reviewing the court cases cited by Bartol & Bartol (2008), I found it highly interesting that the case of Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000) was cited in the chapter on consulting and testifying.  This was of particular interest to me as I was engaged in educational and advocacy work with the defendant, James Dale, and other gay Eagle Scouts both before and after the ruling was issued from the United States Supreme Court.  In this case, a brief regarding the research supporting equal treatment for gays and lesbians was submitted by the American Psychological Association to the court which ultimately ruled against the weight of the evidence proffered by the APA (Bartol & Bartol, 2008).

James Dale earned the rank of Eagle Scout through the Boy Scouts of America while a youth and later became an Assistant Scoutmaster for his troop while he was a student at Rutgers University.  During his college tenure, Dale became an officer of the Lesbian/Gay student alliance and an interview of him on the health needs of lesbian and gay teenagers was published in 1990.  Dale was subsequently forced out of the Boy Scouts of America after other leaders learned in the published article that he was gay.  He sought to be reinstated as a leader through a lawsuit filed under a New Jersey law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination (Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 2000).

While the APA brief “cited the overwhelming social science research that gays and lesbians are no more likely to abuse children than are heterosexuals and are equally likely to form loving, long-term relationships with other adults” (Bartol & Bartol, 2008, p. 126) the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ruled 5-4 in favor of the Boy Scouts of America’s right to free assembly under the First Amendment over the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 2000).  While the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000) went against the psychological science and expertise provided by the American Psychological Association, the field of forensic psychology would later return to the U.S. Supreme Court with much of the same research, this time in a criminal case, where the court would side with the psychological science and rule that laws criminalizing homosexual activity were unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment (Lawrence and Garner v. Texas, 2003).  The field of forensic psychology, determined, had returned with the same research data and expertise to garner a ruling in favor of the science.


Bartol, C., & Bartol, A. (2008). Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000).

Lawrence et al. v. Texas, 439 U.S. 558 (2003).

© 2012 – 2014, Jeremy Liebbe. All rights reserved.

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About the author

Jeremy Liebbe holds a Master of Science in Forensic Psychology, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Police Science, and is currently completing a Doctorate of Philosophy in Psychology. He has over a decade of law enforcement investigative experience as a detective sergeant with experience including narcotics, crimes against children, and homicide investigations. As a result of his expertise in complex criminal investigations and forensic mental health Jeremy has earned numerous commendations, lectured throughout Texas and in several other states, authored and co-authored over a half dozen published papers, and has provided expert testimony in over a dozen felony trials.