Philadelphia’s Boy Scouts chapter has won a court case to avoid being evicted from its city-owned premises because of its anti-gay policies, at least for now.
It had sued the City of Philadelphia after officials attempted to either increase the group’s highly reduced rental fee to market-related levels or have it evicted.
The city has leased the premises to the Boy Scouts for $1 a year since 1928 but tried to end the lease because it said that the Scouts’ policies are in contravention of the city’s anti-discrimination laws.
On Wednesday, jurors handed down a mixed verdict on the case that centred on complex legal issues of freedom of speech and the constitutionality of the city’s actions.
In essence, the eviction of the Boy Scouts has been at least temporarily halted, with a possibility that the judge in the case may make the suspension permanent.
Jury foreman Merrill Arbogast said that the jury sympathised with both sides, reported Philadelphia Gay News.
“We did not feel that the city acted maliciously: They didn’t try to get the Scouts for some reason other than what they stated. But [city officials] could have gone about it with a better process,” he said.
While the Scouts’ lawyers have said that they want to pursue talks with the city, Philadelphia officials have not ruled out taking further legal action.
The Boy Scouts of America’s policies allow it to expel openly gay members or leaders. This has been upheld by US courts in the past on the basis that it is a private organisation and thus has a right to define its membership criteria.