Philadelphia Jury Says Scouts Cannot Be Evicted For Gay Ban

Boy Scouts win federal court battle over rules banning gays.

ByABC News
June 24, 2010, 10:43 AM

June 24, 2010— -- A federal jury has ruled that Philadelphia cannot evict a Boy Scout chapter from city-owned property because the scouts ban gays, but the city is reviewing further legal challenges to the group's anti-gay ban.

The jury found the city's demand that the scouts end its ban on gays in order to use city property violated the scout council's First Amendment rights.

Even as Boy Scout officials declared victory Wednesday night, city officials said they were reviewing their plans. City Solicitor Shelley Smith said, "The potential exists that the verdict is flawed. We will be exploring our options."

In a statement, the city said: "While the good work of the Boy Scouts cannot be disputed, the city remains steadfast in its commitment to prevent its facilities from being used to disadvantage certain groups."

In the lawsuit, the scouts had sought an injunction barring the city from evicting them, or charging $200,000 a year in rent, on their stately headquarters building near Logan Square.

While the verdict seemed to strengthen the scouts' position in negotiations with the city, U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter did not immediately issue an injunction barring their eviction because of the national organization's policy that homosexuals cannot be scouts or troop leaders.

Buckwalter told jurors the city's anti-discrimination policy is "principled" and said he hoped the two "honorable institutions" could come to an agreement.

The city still could terminate the lease under the 1928 agreement, which was designed to give nonprofits free rent if they maintained the sites. The city must terminate the lease for a legally permissible reason, the judge said, not because of an organization's views.