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The land of the free is not as free as once thought. James Dale was a scoutmaster who was kicked out of the Boy Scouts of America when they discovered that he was a homosexual. He sued them for violating anti-discrimination laws and recently lost in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in favor of the Boy Scouts.

Contrary to claims by homosexual advocacy groups that this case was about gay rights, this case was legally was about freedom of association.

But forget about which side won and about freedom of association.

The Boy Scouts of America's vehement fight to ban homosexuals from its ranks will ultimately defeat them in an age when the majority of America is open to differences in personal sexual orientations. In an age when homophobia is looked down upon, the B.S.A. has associated itself with the fundamentalist far-right.

Now groups that had always supported the organization, such as the municipal governments of Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco, and the United Methodist Church, have removed or are considering removing support from the B.S.A.

Furthermore, groups such as the NAACP, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Asian Pacific Legal Consortium have denounced the B.S.A.

The general mission of the Boy Scouts is "to instill values in young people." Ironically, the B.S.A. issued a statement saying, "We believe an avowed homosexual is not a role model for the values espoused in the Scout oath and law. (We will not) promote homosexual conduct as a legitimate form of behavior. (We will) teach that homosexual conduct is not morally straight."

The Boy Scouts therefore recognizes that hiding one's sexuality is of greater value than honesty, an opinion that most educated people do not hold in modern society.

One reason for homophobia among the uneducated is that many people think that one's sexual orientation is voluntarily chosen. Not everyone knows that sexual orientation is as inherent and unchangeable as one's race. Even after the American Psychiatric Association proclaimed that one's sexual orientation is unchangeable and that "reparative" therapy has been shown to be ineffective, the uneducated still believe that homosexuality is chosen voluntarily.

Homosexuals do not wake up one day and decide that they will be gay.

Another reason for intolerance towards homosexuals is the image gays exude. Homosexuals are doing themselves a disservice by changing the names of "Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Alliances" to "Queer Alliances." Queer means odd, and after hearing the reason for the name change, I was even more perplexed -- the name change was to make the word the property of homosexuals. If one carries this argument to other groups the argument rapidly falls apart.

Obviously, the issue of gay rights transcends the James Dale case. The attitude of the Boy Scouts is little more than a microcosm of the greater intolerance gays experience in society at large. The only feasible solution to such discrimination is education.

Efforts must be made to educate both the gay and straight communities. Internally, phrases such as "choice of lifestyle" and "sexual preference" must be eliminated from the gay vocabulary. Such phrases simply perpetuate the common misconception that homosexuality is a choice, rather than a compulsion as strong as any heterosexual urges.

To quote the ACLU, "more speech, not less, is the answer." The only way to achieve the goals of the gay community and end general discrimination is to further educate both the gay and straight communities. Only then will we achieve a harmonious existence.

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