PHILADELPHIA – A Boy Scouts of America chapter embroiled in a battle over gay rights has filed a lawsuit against the city of Philadelphia to avoid eviction from their city-owned headquarters.
The federal lawsuit seeks to stop the city from evicting the Scouts or from charging the group about $200,000 a year in rent. The Scouts currently pay $1 annually for the space.
The city says it cannot keep subsidizing the rent of a private group that discriminates. It gave the Scouts until Saturday to revise their policy or pay rent.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the Boy Scouts, as a private group, have a First Amendment right to bar gays.
But taxpayers cannot keep subsidizing the rent of a group that discriminates, City Solicitor Shelley Smith told MyFOXPhilly.
"They're free to exercise their First Amendment rights," Smith said. "What they're not free to do is get a benefit from the city while violating our policy."
The Philadelphia chapter adopted an explicit nondiscrimination policy in 2003 after negotiations with the city, but was forced to rescind it when the Boy Scouts of America balked, MyFOXPhilly.com reported. The national group said Philadelphia Scout officials could not deviate from national rules barring participation by anyone who is openly gay.
The Scouts say the higher rent would force them to cut programs, and is equivalent to the cost of sending about 800 needy children to summer camp.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.