By Troy Graham -
Philadelphia Mayor Nutter assured gay and lesbian leaders Tuesday of his commitment to fighting discrimination, but said he would not back off an agreement to end a long battle over the Boy Scouts' exclusion of openly gay members.
The city had tried to evict the scouts' Cradle of Liberty Council from its city-owned headquarters, but a federal jury found that doing so would violate the scouts' First Amendment rights.
In a settlement, the city agreed to sell the Logan Square building to the scouts for $500,000, with the scouts forgiving about $960,000 in legal bills.
Gay and lesbian leaders have urged the administration not to sell, and philanthropist Mel Heifetz has offered to buy the building instead.
In Tuesday's meeting, Heifetz upped his bid to $1 million and agreed to cover the scouts' legal costs. "There was no response" to his offer, he said.
"I would turn [the building] over to a nonprofit that doesn't discriminate," Heifetz said.
Nutter said that "at the moment, the property is not for sale."
"If you were selling your house, and you had an agreement with someone, you are not allowed to go and entertain someone else's offer," he said.
The settlement with the scouts requires the approval of City Council, which has not scheduled any hearings on the matter. With the arrival of budget season, Council isn't expected to wade into the matter anytime soon.
Nonetheless, the agreement is being overseen by the federal court, and any delays in implementing it would have to be addressed there.
"The mayor sees this as the quickest way to end the discrimination going on in that building and to sever that relationship," Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said.
He characterized the talks between administration officials and gay and lesbian leaders Tuesday as a "cordial" exchange of views.
But Nate Walker, with Religious Leaders Against Subsidized Discrimination, said meeting participants were "disappointed" with Nutter's stance.
"What we would like to see is the leader of the city of love to stand on the side of love," he said.