updated 3/8/2004 1:22:44 PM ET 2004-03-08T18:22:44

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from the Boy Scouts over what the organization claims is discrimination because of its policy against hiring gays.

The case revisited the gay rights fight surrounding the high court’s ruling four years ago that the Boy Scouts have the right to ban openly homosexual scout leaders. This time, the question was whether states may treat the Scouts differently than other organizations because of that policy.

The Scouts asked the justices to hear a case from Connecticut, where officials dropped the group from a list of charities that receive donations through a state employee payroll deduction plan.

That’s unconstitutional discrimination, the Boy Scouts argued.

“To exclude the Boy Scouts from a forum based on their values they hold and the conduct they require of their members is to exclude Boy Scouts based on viewpoint and identity,” lawyers for the Scouts argued in their Supreme Court appeal.

The Scouts took in about $10,000 annually from the employee charity campaign, the filing said.

Similar battle under way in San Diego
The Boy Scouts are pursuing a similar court fight in San Diego, where city officials want to evict the group from a park where the organization runs a youth aquatic center. The Bush administration sided with the Scouts in that case last week.

Road map to the Supreme CourtConnecticut officials also raised the issue of discrimination to explain why the Scouts were dropped from the State Employee Campaign Committee in 2000.

A state human rights commission had found that including the Boy Scouts of America in the employee donation program would violate Connecticut’s gay rights law, state Connecticut attorney General Richard Blumenthal argued to the high court.

The gay rights law prohibits the state from “becoming a party to any agreement, arrangement or plan which has the effect of sanctioning discrimination,” the state’s legal filing said.

A federal appeals court ruled last year that Connecticut did not violate the Scouts’ First Amendment rights. The Connecticut policy was intended more to protect gays than to silence the views of groups like the Scouts, the court said in upholding then ruling of a lower federal judge.

Religious groups, others weigh in
The American Legion, Campus Crusade for Christ and numerous other organizations filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the Boy Scouts.

“Permitting this decision to stand would open the door for other governmental action that seeks to advance a political agenda by forcing those who oppose it to relinquish their constitutionally protected views, beliefs and practices in exchange for a government benefit that was otherwise available,” lawyers a Catholic public interest law firm, the Thomas More Law Center, argued.

The case is Boy Scouts of America v. Wyman, 03-956.

In another case, the court on Monday ruled that while people pleading guilty to crimes are entitled to an attorney, judges don’t have to warn them of the disadvantages of not seeing a lawyer.

Justices used the case of an Iowa man convicted of drunken driving to clarify rights under the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment, which guarantees legal assistance to those accused of crimes.

No self-representation warning required
In its 9-0 ruling, the court reaffirmed that people facing prison time are entitled to attorneys at critical stages of the process, including a plea hearing.

The high court overturned an Iowa Supreme Court decision that said judges must tell defendants of the disadvantages of pleading guilty without consulting a lawyer.

Ginsburg said states are free to adopt their own rules, but such warnings are not required by the Constitution.

Iowa had appealed the state court’s decision, with the backing of the Bush administration and more than 30 states.

At issue was the case of former Iowa college student Felipe Tovar, who didn’t hire a lawyer when he went to court on drunken driving charges — and didn’t get the best deal possible.

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