Gay groups are unhappy with a proposed
settlement between the City of Philadelphia and a local Boy Scouts
chapter, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Under the settlement announced
Wednesday, the city will sell its stately Beaux Arts building for
less than half of its $1.1 million value to the Philadelphia chapter
of the Boy Scouts, known as the Cradle of Liberty Council. In
exchange, the Scouts have agreed to forgive the nearly $1 million
legal tab a federal court ordered the city to pay after it ruled the
city could not evict the group from a city-owned building for
refusing to admit gay members.
The city 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.
Andrew A. Chirls, a lawyer representing
gay people who had worked with the city on the issue, said the city
had undervalued the building: “It's a Renaissance-style mansion
with an atrium and marble appointments, and you're selling it for the
price of a rowhouse.”
“This [settlement] is a subsidy,”
he added. “They're giving them a gift so they can discriminate in
The Philadelphia chapter of the
American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania also criticized the
“This settlement is a bad deal not
only for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Philadelphians, but
also for the taxpayers of the City of Philadelphia at a time when
the city is struggling to balance its budget without drastic cuts in
city services,” the group said in a letter.
The proposed settlement surprised
Councilman Darrell L. Clarke, who was expected to introduce a bill
Thursday required for the city to sell the property.
Clarke said he wanted to hear from gay
groups and the building's neighbors before introducing the
“I would think any resolution of this
issue would definitely include those individuals,” he said.
In 2000, the Supreme Court agreed that
the Texas-based Boy Scouts of America, as a private group, can set up
their own rules.
The Cradle of Liberty Council faced
eviction after it refused to specifically repudiate the gay ban.