PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 4 — For three years the Philadelphia council of the Boy Scouts of America held its ground. It resisted the city’s request to change its discriminatory policy toward gay people despite threats that if it did not do so, the city would evict the group from a municipal building where the Scouts have resided practically rent free since 1928.
Hailed as the birthplace of the Boy Scouts, the Beaux Arts building is the seat of the seventh-largest chapter of the organization and the first of the more than 300 council service centers built by the Scouts around the country over the past century.
But over the years the fight between the city and the Scouts was about more than this grandiose structure in Center City.
Municipal officials said the clash stemmed from a duty to defend civil rights and an obligation to abide by a local law that bars taxpayer support for any group that discriminates. Boy Scout officials said it was about preserving their culture, protecting the right of private organizations to remain exclusive and defending traditions like requiring members to swear an oath of duty to God and prohibiting membership by anyone who is openly homosexual.
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