PHILADELPHIA – The city said it will evict a Boy Scout council from its publicly owned headquarters or make the group pay a fair rent price unless it changes its policy on gays.
The Boy Scouts' Cradle of Liberty Council, the country's third-largest, has been battling with the city for more than three years over the policy, which like the national Scouts organization forbids gays from being leaders.
City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. wrote a letter to William T. Dwyer III, president of the Cradle of Liberty Council, stating that the council's "discriminatory policies" violate city policy and law, and that city officials have not been assured the group will not discriminate.
Unless the city gets a "fair-market rent agreement," the council will be evicted, the letter says.
The group has made its headquarters on a half-acre owned by the city in the upscale Philadelphia Art Museum area since 1928, when the city council voted to allow the Scouts to use the property rent-free "in perpetuity." The Scouts pay for building upkeep.
Council spokesman Jeff Jubelirer questioned the timing of the city's move.
"With an epidemic of gun violence taking the lives of Philadelphia's children every day, it is ironic the administration chose this time to destroy programming that services 40,000 children in the city," Jubelirer said.
Stacey Sobel, executive director of Philadelphia's Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, said she's pleased the city is taking action.
"If they are going to discriminate, the taxpayers shouldn't be subsidizing it," Sobel said.
The Boy Scouts of America's policy on gay leaders was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.
In 2003, the council in Philadelphia said it would adopt a nondiscrimination policy on gays. However, weeks later the group dismissed an 18-year-old Scout who publicly acknowledged he was gay.
Dwyer did not immediately return a message Saturday from The Associated Press, and a phone rang unanswered at the organization's national headquarters in Texas.