Federal Court: Boy Scouts Can Rent Public Property Almost For Free

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Boy Scouts can rent San Diego public property at a “nominal fee” despite their being an anti-gay religious organization.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the city’s practice of leasing valuable property to the Boy Scouts for nominal rent in exchange for the group’s commitment to undertake expensive renovations and to manage the property. The unanimous ruling, which overturned a district court decision, said the city did not discriminate in its rental policies or bear any financial hardship under the terms of its leases to the Boy Scouts. The decision stemmed from a lawsuit brought by a lesbian couple and an agnostic couple, who said the leases of public land to groups that discriminate violated both the state and federal constitutions. The couples “had an aversion to the facilities and felt unwelcome there because of the Boy Scouts’ policies that discriminated against people like them,” the court said.

California Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins, who fought the Boy Scouts while on the San Diego City Council, has denounced the ruling. Via press release:

“Today the court told the children of San Diego that discrimination against them and their families based on sexual orientation or religious practice is ‘incidental.’ I could not disagree more. In the decade since this case was first filed, Americans have increasingly embraced LGBT families. Our government should do no less. However, just because a court says you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it. I hope that the current city leadership will find ways to affirm the value of all boys and to welcome them in all taxpayer-funded parks.”