A federal jury has given the Boy Scouts a major victory: ruling that Philadelphia cannot evict the organization under a non-discrimination law. I have written about this case previously, including a column on the tension between non-discrimination laws and free association.
The city is exploring new possible ways to evict the Scouts, including an appeal.
In this case, 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. Notably, however, U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter did not immediately issue an injunction.
The role of the jury in such a case is a bit novel. Usually, this type of question is left to judges as largely legal matters. Putting the issue before a jury was a key advantage for the Boy Scouts.
They were informed that either they had to drop their discrimination against homosexuals or they had to move out of the grand, Beaux-Arts building. They have rented the building from the city for $1 a year since 1928.
The Boy Scouts have long adopted a clearly discriminatory policy against homosexuals. They have argued that the policy is based on their moral teachings and are therefore protected under the Constitution. They are right in my view and I agreed with the Supreme Court decision protecting their association on that basis. In Boy Scouts of America et al. v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000), Chief Justice Rehnquist overturned the New Jersey Supreme Court’s application of the New Jersey public accommodations law. That law was used to force the Boy Scouts of America to readmit assistant Scoutmaster James Dale. The Court held that the lower court’s decision unconstitutionally violated the rights of BSA, specifically the freedom of association. For a prior column on Dale, click here