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Ruling against Scouts may not affect sea base

August 02, 2003

Paul Clinton

Boy Scout leaders said they aren't worried about a federal judge's

ruling that overturned a San Diego scout group's lease on Thursday

because that group excluded some groups from a public park.

The Boy Scouts Orange County Council have a $6.5-million sea base

on Orange County tidelands. The group holds the lease to the 1.1-acre

property at no cost.

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"The San Diego facility was exclusively used for Boy Scout

functions," council spokesman Brett Beck said Friday. The Newport

Beach sea base is "open to any organized group," he said.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Napoleon Jones Jr. sided with a

lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of

two boys raised by a lesbian couple and an agnostic family that

challenged the Boy Scouts Desert-Pacific Council's lease for land in

Balboa Park. The scout group pays $1 per year.

Jordan Budd, the legal director of the ACLU of San Diego and

Imperial Counties, argued that the scouts received special treatment

because of the special deal.

Beck said the Newport Beach base doesn't get preferential

treatment because the base is open to any member of the public who

wants to use it. That would include a gay or agnostic group, Beck

said.

Beck said the group does not view its lease as a subsidy.

"We're not making any money on it," Beck said. "The county is the

one getting the subsidy here."

Budd did not return several calls seeking comment. Calls to the

ACLU's Los Angeles office were also not returned on Friday.

In September 2000, Orange County renewed its lease with the sea

base, which sits on county tidelands. The Board of Supervisors

renewed the lease for 30 years, beginning in 2006, over the

objections of gay-rights groups and the ACLU.

At the time, Supervisors Jim Silva and Tom Wilson said they

supported the extension because the sea base benefits all children in

the county. They also said the Scouts could not discriminate against

any group.

* PAUL CLINTON covers the environment, business and politics. He

may be reached at (949) 764-4330 or by e-mail at

paul.clinton@latimes.com.

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