A federal jury ruled Wednesday that the
city of Philadelphia cannot evict a local Boy Scouts chapter from a
city building for refusing to admit gay members, the AP reported.
The Philadelphia chapter of the Boy
Scouts, known as the Cradle of Liberty Council, cannot be put out of
its stately Beaux Arts headwaters building. To do so would violate
the scout's First Amendment rights, the jury said in its unanimous
The city, which owns the building,
decided to terminate the scout's nearly-free lease in 2007, insisting
that nonprofits must abide by local anti-discrimination laws,
including an ordinance that protects based on sexual orientation.
During the eight-day trial, the local
chapter insisted they are obliged to follow a national policy that
excludes gays from membership. In 2000, the Supreme Court agreed
that the Boy Scouts, as a private group, can set up their own rules.
In Philadelphia, the Cradle of Liberty
Council attempted to appease both the city and the Texas-based Boy
Scouts of America by fashioning a statement saying it objected to
discrimination but did not specifically repudiate the gay ban.
The city, however, said the statement
was too vague and decided to end the sweetheart deal cut in 1928,
asking the group to pay $200,000 annual rent or face eviction.
After the verdict, U.S. District Judge
Ronald L. Buckwalter decided against immediately awarding the scouts
an injunction that would ban the city from evicting the group or
increasing their rent, saying he hoped the two “honorable
institutions” could work something out.
“From now on, the Boy Scouts will be
negotiating from a position of strength,” Jason Gosselin, a lawyer
representing the scouts, told reporters. “The city can't come in
and impose its views on what the scouts ought to do.”
In a statement released Wednesday, the
city said it was “steadfast in its commitment to prevent its
facilities from being used to disadvantage certain groups.” It
said it was reviewing its legal options.