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Boy Scouts and the City of Philadelphia in Court Over Anti-Gay Policy

A trial to settle a tense dispute between the City of Philadelphia and the local Boy Scouts council began on Tuesday. The city has threatened to evict the Cradle of Liberty Council, the local Boy Scouts chapter, from a building it has occupied rent-free for over 80 years because the Council refused to drnounce the Boy Scouts of America’s policy of forbidding homosexuals from the organization. Jurors were chosen yesterday and include two men and six women, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The case is expected to last about a week. The public land currently occupied by the Cradle of Liberty Council was given to the Boy Scouts in 1928 for a one year lease, and has been used by the group ever since. The Huffington Post reports that Mayor Michael Nutter told the Council that it would have vacate the premises or begin paying the city $200,000 per year for the space, as the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on homosexuals violate Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination laws. A Philadelphia ordinance of 1982 bans discrimination based on sexual orientation. In an attempt to comply with the city charter, the Council adopted a non-discrimination policy in 2003 but it was forced to rescind it by the Boy Scouts of America on the grounds that they cannot violate national policies, reported the Associated Press Tom Harrington, CEO of the Cradle of Libery Council, told NPR that the group should retain its rights to the building, explaining, “We built the building with Boy Scout money, and the agreement was we could stay there rent-free.” The city defends its eviction of the group. “We’re not punishing them for not admitting homosexuals,” City Solicitor Shelley Smith said to USAToday. “But they can’t get free rent and violate our policy.” In 2000, the US Supreme Court upheld the First Amendment rights of the Boy Scouts of America to exclude gays.

Sources:

Huffington Post 6/14/10; Philadelphia Inquirer 6/14/10; NPR 6/14/10; USAToday 5/27/10; Associated Press 10/18/10

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