Boy Scouts Defend First Amendment Right to Discriminate

City of Philadelphia says Scouts must change stance on sexual orientation.

ByABC News
June 19, 2010, 12:41 PM

June 19, 2010— -- The trial in Philadephia pitting the Boy Scouts against the city's insistence that it allow gays to participate is nearing a pivotal point when the gay teenager who triggered the suit is scheduled to take the stand.

Greg Lattera, now 18, who was kicked out of the scouts after he appeared in uniform on TV to declare he was gay, is listed as a witness for the city in the trial underway in U.S. District Court. The Cradle of Liberty Council is suing the city over an ultimatum to either renounce a national scouting policy against gays or be evicted from the city building it has been renting for $1 a year since 1928.

In testimony earlier this week, the retired chief executive of the Cradle of Liberty Council, Bill Dwyer, said the city ultimatum not only violates the council's First Amendment rights but also "would put us out of business."

A lawyer representing the City of Brotherly Love, David Smith, told the federal jury that the local scout leaders were "speaking out of both sides of their mouths" when they initially agreed with the city's anti-discrimination policy but then continued to use the national group's employment application, which stated that homosexuals, atheists, and agnostics would not be hired.

Soon after Lattera was kicked out the Boy Scouts in 2003, the city, which has its own anti-discrimination policy, began pressuring the Cradle of Liberty Council to renounce the national scouting policy which discriminates against homosexuals. That national policy was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000.

The Cradle of Liberty Council agreed in 2004 to a statement that it would oppose all "unlawful discrimination" but that deal was later scuttled when the city insisted it go even further and disown the national policy.

If the scouts lose the lawsuit, there is a way they can remain in the historic Beaux Arts building. The city says the Council could pay the market rent, currently $200,000 a year.