The San Diego city council agreed Thursday to settle a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2000 challenging the city's subsidy of the Boy Scouts through a preferential lease at a public park. In July 2003 federal district court judge Napoleon Jones ruled that the park lease to the Scouts violated First Amendment guarantees of separation of church and state. The city has agreed to request that Jones enter a final judgment based on that ruling and then to give notice to the Scouts that the lease has terminated. The city has also agreed to end its support of the Scouts and to not oppose the ACLU as it pursues resolution of the remaining issues in the lawsuit. "San Diego has finally taken itself out of the business of endorsing the exclusion of many of its residents from their own city parks," said ACLU legal director Jordan Budd. "While it is unfortunate that it has taken an adverse court ruling to get the city on the right of this issue, the end result is a victory for every San Diegan who cares about tolerance and equality."
San Diego has given the Boy Scouts nearly 70 years of exclusive use of 18 acres of prime land in city-owned Balboa Park for $1 a year. The Balboa Park lease contains a provision that terminates the lease if any court issues a final judgment finding the lease illegal. "The Boy Scouts cannot have it both ways," ACLU volunteer attorney M.E. Stephens said. "Having gone to great lengths to establish that discrimination against gays and nonbelievers is essential to their mission and therefore protected by the First Amendment, they cannot now turn around and ask the people of San Diego to foot the bill for that discrimination."