A decade-old struggle between Philadelphia and a local Boy Scouts of America chapter took another turn this spring when a federal judge ordered the city to pay nearly $900,000 to cover the Scouts’ legal fees after a failed attempt to evict the group from city-owned land because of the national group’s ban on gay members and leaders.
A jury in the case determined in 2010 that the eviction effort violated the Scouts’ First Amendment rights. Since 1929 the Cradle of Liberty Council has occupied property in the Center City neighborhood, paying $1 in annual rent. City officials indicated in 2003 that the gay ban, upheld by the Supreme Court in 2000, violated a nondiscrimination ordinance. When the City Council moved to evict the chapter in 2007, the Scouts filed the suit.
Following the jury decision, Philadelphia tried to reach a settlement with the Scouts to forgive the city’s legal fees and sell the property, a beaux arts building and half acre of land valued at up to $2 million, to the chapter for $500,000, thereby ending any conflict caused by the Scouts occupying city property. The deal never got a vote in the City Council due to pressure from LGBT advocates.
“The city shouldn’t be subsidizing discrimination,” says Duane Perry, a former Eagle Scout who opposed the settlement. “They need to take a stand.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Michael Nutter is keeping his next move on the most recent development close to the vest.