Alumnus James Dale joined the Boy Scouts when he was 8. He earned his Eagle Scout rank at 17 and was an assistant scoutmaster in Troop 73 in Matawan, New Jersey, while in college at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. The summer before his junior year, he received a vague letter from his local council leader saying he no longer met the standards of leadership.
Dale came out as gay in 1989, and he was happy at Rutgers. “There was a tremendous amount of acceptance and pride among peers, staff, and faculty,” says Dale, who grew up in Middletown, New Jersey, and majored in communication and sociology.
While at Rutgers, Dale connected with attorney Evan Wolfson, then with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, to pursue a lawsuit. When New Jersey passed a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation for places of public accommodation, their case gained strength. In July 1992, Dale sued the Boy Scouts of America in New Jersey Superior Court.
Despite the U.S. Supreme Court voting, 5–4, ruling the organization had a constitutional right to ban gay members, Dale’s soon focus sharpened on the bigger picture.
“The Supreme Court did the larger issue a favor,” he says. “The decision basically forced people to struggle with the issue, to decide which side they stood on and if they could align with an organization that discriminates.”
When Dale attended the gay pride parade in New York in June 2016, he took note of so many stores and businesses along the route hanging rainbow flags and messages of LGBTQ support.
“I remember a time when that wasn’t the case,” Dale says. “This is a much better place to be.”
Excerpted from Rutgers Today