By Steve Tawa

WAYNE, Pa. (CBS) — Local Boy Scout leaders in the Philadelphia region are adopting a membership and employment policy that opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation.

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The 30-member executive board of the Cradle of Liberty Council, now based in Wayne, Pa., voted unanimously this morning to buck the national policy of the Boy Scouts of America banning gay scout leaders.

“We decided that it was time that we adopted the policy that we wanted to adopt all along,” executive board president Jim Papada told KYW Newsradio this morning.

He says the Council had long sought a policy of inclusion.  In 2003, it attempted allow gay members, but national leaders threatened to revoke the Council’s charter.  That began a lengthy legal battle with the City of Philadelphia, which opposed the exclusionary policy.

In a 2010 trial, a federal jury found that the city had violated the local Boy Scouts’ First Amendment rights by requiring the local chapter to reject the national Boy Scouts’ ban on gays or face eviction from its headquarters building just off the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Although the local scouts won a favorable decision, the Council vacated its historic headquarters, at 22nd and Winter Streets, near the Franklin Institute.

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In a 2013 settlement with the city, the local scouts received $825,000.

The Cradle of Liberty Council represents about 15,000 scouts in Philadelphia, Montgomery, and Delaware counties.

Boy Scouts of America president Robert Gates recently told the group’s leadership that BSA’s ban on gay adult scout leaders “needed to end.”

In 2013,  the national organization overturned its prior membership restriction based on a scout’s sexual orientation but left intact its policy that no openly gay adults could serve as leaders.

Gates, a onetime US defense secretary, said the BSA “cannot ignore growing internal challenges to its policy, like in New York, Denver, and elsewhere.”   And now, Philadelphia.

 

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