Inquirer Editorial: Scouts' deal makes sense

Posted: November 19, 2010

The negotiators who crafted a proposed deal to extract Philadelphia from its long-standing antidiscrimination dispute with the Boy Scouts' Cradle of Liberty Council concerning the group's city-owned headquarters should get a merit badge for compromise.

Not everyone is pleased with the deal, but the Nutter administration has found a sensible way to bring the lengthy dispute - which has received national attention - to an end.

Yet to be earned: merit badges in salesmanship and communication. That's because the deal isn't perfect by any means, as its detractors were quick to note Thursday when details were disclosed.

City Council approval has been delayed, with the district councilman, Darrell L. Clarke, saying he needs more time for review. And the city's gay community remains uneasy over an agreement that seems to reward the scouts for their group's disgraceful antigay policy on membership and hiring.

The deal calls for the city to stop trying to evict the Boy Scouts from their headquarters near Logan Square because of its antigay national charter. In turn, the scouts will buy the Beaux Arts building from the city. One gay activist thought the cut-rate price was a steal, calling it "a renaissance mansion . . . for the price of a rowhouse."

That said, the discounted $500,000 price tag would come with a sweetener for Nutter: It would free the city from having to pay $1 million in legal fees owed as a result of a federal court ruling in June that the city violated the scouts' rights in the eviction effort over antigay policies.

The deal also would stop the meter on additional legal fees and other possible compensation for which the city would be liable if it appealed the court case and lost.

Addressing another important concern, the Boy Scouts reportedly have pledged to Logan Square neighbors that the organization will not sell for at least a decade. That removes the risk that the property could be flipped right away to a high-rise developer.

All in all, the city's resolution with the Boy Scouts is about as good an outcome as can be expected. Too bad it took years to reach, and still shortchanges city taxpayers. But both sides have reason to want the dispute settled now.

This may be the best deal Nutter can get, since his high-minded decision to test the city's right to evict the scouts left the city in a weakened bargaining position. It was an admitted long shot, since the U.S. Supreme Court said the Boy Scouts could exclude gays.

From the Cradle of Liberty Council viewpoint, the ongoing dispute keeps a harsh spotlight on the scouts' national policy banning homosexuals. Neither scouting nor the region are well-served by a dispute that detracts from the Boy Scouts' worthy mentoring and educational programs for thousands of area youths.

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