Philadelphia Scouts face loss of land use

By admin

Originally published on Advocate.com September 17 2003 11:00 PM ET

The Philadelphia council of the Boy Scouts of America may no longer be allowed the free use of city property because of its antigay policy, which excludes openly gay men from becoming scouts, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The council has enjoyed free use of city property for its offices since 1929. "We hope that this will not be the outcome," said Pat Coviello, executive vice president of the Cradle of Liberty Council. The mayor's chief of staff, Joyce Wilkerson, said she contacted local council executives last week to advise them of an opinion handed down by city solicitor Nelson A. Diaz. Diaz had informed the mayor's office that the city's fair practices ordinance was in direct conflict with the policy of allowing the Boy Scouts to use the property at 22nd and Winter streets rent-free. A meeting between city officials and Boy Scout executives is scheduled for next week. Cradle of Liberty is the nation's third-largest council and serves 87,000 youths in Philadelphia, Delaware, and Montgomery counties.

The city's decades-long deal with the Boy Scouts became an issue in May when the Cradle of Liberty Council tried to liberalize an intractable national policy regarding the acceptance of gay men and boys. The local council, in defiance of the Boy Scouts of America's policy of not allowing gays to join, voted that it would not discriminate based on sexual orientation and religion, among many other things. The council had been under pressure from the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which had been making annual grants to the Boy Scouts of more than $400,000. But when the national organization heard of the local council's move, it threatened to revoke the local charter and replace its board. In early June, the local council folded under the pressure and quickly expelled openly gay Life Scout Gregory Lattera. Immediately following, the Pew Charitable Trusts withdrew a $100,000 grant in June. In late July the United Way board voted to retract the second half of its $400,000 grant for this year.