Buoyed by this week’s Supreme Court decision affirming the right of a California university to deny funding to a student group that discriminates against gays, city attorneys were preparing legal papers to block a local Boy Scouts of America council’s permanent occupancy of a city-owned building.
On June 23, after an eight-day trial, eight federal jurors said the city violated the Scouts’ free-speech rights by asking them to renounce BSA’s antigay policy as a condition of remaining inside the building.
But jurors rejected the Scouts’ other claims that city officials engaged in “viewpoint discrimination” and treated them differently than other tenants when seeking their eviction.
Five days later, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court denied an appeal from a Christian group that wants continued funding from a university, even though it violates the university’s anti-bias policy covering religion and sexual orientation.
In the case, “Christian Legal Society vs. University of California’s Hastings College of the Law,” the court said the Constitution protects the group’s “discriminatory practices off campus, [but] it does not require a public university to validate or support them.”
In Philadelphia, the local BSA council wants a federal judge to allow them to remain at 231-251 N. 22nd St. permanently, even though the council refuses to comply with the city’s anti-bias policies covering sexual orientation and religion.
The council filed a motion renewing that request on Monday.
At press time, the council had no comment on the ramifications of the Supreme Court ruling.
But when questioned about the possibility of an out-of-court settlement, the council said on June 29: “As always, the Cradle of Liberty Council remains open to discussing reasonable settlement proposals with the City of Philadelphia.”
U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter hadn’t entered a judgment on the verdict at press time.
City attorneys have up to 28 days to appeal Buckwalter’s judgment, once it is entered, according to federal rules of civil procedures.
Thomas W. Ude Jr., senior staff attorney with Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the Supreme Court ruling strengthens Philadelphia’s position against the Scouts.
“It does strike me that there are very strong parallels between the policy that the Supreme Court held was constitutional and the policy that the city of Philadelphia was seeking to enforce with respect to its property,” Ude told PGN. “The [California] case is very directly on point.”
He said the Scouts prevailed on a claim very close to that of the legal society’s. “It involves a legal question that is very similar — if not identical — to the question answered by the Supreme Court in the Christian Legal Society case.”
Amara S. Chaudhry, director of legal services for Mazzoni Center, agreed with Ude.
“I think the holding in the Christian Legal Society case virtually guarantees Philadelphia’s success on appeal against the Scouts,” Chaudhry told PGN. “The cases are very similar. The ruling in CLF strongly dictates that a group that discriminates is not entitled to a public subsidy that would facilitates that discrimination.”