Clarke introduces Boy Scout bill as gay leaders balk at so-called compromise

From Inquirer reporter Miriam Hill:

Councilman Darrell Clarke this afternoon introduced a bill that will allow the city to sell the Boy Scouts' headquarter building to the scouting group.

Clarke's proposed ordinance forbids the Scouts Cradle of Liberty Council from selling any part of the Logan Square property for 10 years. It also requires the Scouts to provide space for community programming, including for diversity education.

The bill comes out of an effort by the city to settle legal claims stemming from a lawsuit it lost against the Scouts. In 2008, the city, which owns the property on which the Scouts' building sits, sued the group for discrimination because it does not permit gays and lesbians to join. The city lost that suit and is on the hook for about $1 million in legal bills owed by the Scouts.

While Clarke forged ahead with broaching an end to this longtime feud, a group of civic leaders sent a letter to Mayor Nutter Tuesday asking him to reconsider plans to sell the Scouts property to them, which is part of Clarke's proposal as well.

"The recent proposal to sell City-owned property to the Boy Scouts, at a big discount, to facilitate discrimination is contrary to the values and beliefs we hold most dear as a community. As history has shown, when we permit discrimination against some of us, we tear apart the fabric that makes us one," the letter says.

It was signed by David Adamany, former President of Temple University; Casey Cook, Executive Director of the Bread & Roses Community Fund; philanthropost Peter Buttonweiser; and many other influential city and regional leaders.

Clarke said he introduced the legislation despite the ongoing disagreement because he believes it "will facilitate further discussion."

A settlement between the City and the Scouts announced a few weeks ago called for the Scouts to pay $500,000 for the property and forgiveness of the legal bills. That deal, however, was scuttled after complaints from gay leaders and the Logan Square community, and it was not clear Thursday whether those terms still applied.

No action can be taken on Clarke's bill until next year because Thursday is Council's last scheduled session for 2010.

- Miriam Hill

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