Activists: Rental negotiations with Scouts should be open
by Timothy Cwiek
Philadelphia Gay News
As city officials work to determine the amount of rent the Boy Scouts must pay to remain in a city-owned building, GLBT activists are calling for an open negotiation process.
“Historically, LGBT people have not had access to information that is critical to our community,” said Stacey Sobel, executive director of Equality Advocates Pennsylvania.
If open lines of communication are maintained, members of the GLBT community will have more confidence in the negotiations, she noted.
“It’s important to us, like any other community, to be able to see transparency and fairness on issues where discrimination has occurred,” Sobel added.
Some activists are particularly concerned because, in 2004, city officials entered into a closed-door agreement with the Cradle of Liberty chapter of the Scouts, allowing them to remain rent-free in the building after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Scouts’ anti-gay policy was legal.
The City eventually revoked that agreement.
Sobel has been active with a working group instrumental in requiring the Scouts to pay fair-market rent for use of a city building at 22nd Street, near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
The working group has asked to review a city appraisal of the building occupied by the Scouts, but the request was denied, Sobel said.
“We have not seen any appraisal at this time, although it’s been requested verbally,” Sobel said on July 31.
City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. had not returned calls for comment by press time.
Sobel said it’s crucial that the city charge fair-market rent and not offer any discounts to the Scouts. “I’d be very disappointed with any rental contract that didn’t truly reflect the fair-market-value rental of the building.”
In May 2003, the chapter expelled Greg Lattera as a Boy Scout after he publicly came out.
In addition, an employment application handed out by the local Scouts chapter recently stated that no applications will be accepted from “known or avowed homosexuals.”
Members of the working group initially tried to get city officials to remove the Scouts from the building all together, regardless of any rent they offered to pay.
However, city officials refused to comply with that request.
Instead, a compromise was developed in 2006, allowing the Scouts to remain in the building if they paid fair-market rent, even if they continued to discriminate.
Under a resolution enacted by the Fairmount Park Commission, the Scouts were supposed to begin paying rent by July 24, 2007, but that deadline has passed.
“It would be our preference that the Boy Scouts not discriminate at all,” Sobel said. “This rental option was seen as a compromise. And compromises in general don’t satisfy everyone. But I think the important thing to remember is, we made sure that taxpayers weren’t subsidizing the discrimination. That was critical to this issue.”
Some working-group members asked that any rent collected from the Scouts be earmarked for youth groups that don’t discriminate against GLBT youths, Sobel said.
“Activists suggested that funds could be used to support youth-related activities in the city.”
In a previous interview, Diaz told PGN he hadn’t researched the possibility of earmarking the rental payments for groups serving GLBT youths.