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Miami Beach uses ordinance to sway Scouts

The city may deny the waiver of rental fees for municipal facilities to groups that discriminate.

The fight against the Boy Scouts' controversial stance on gays has grown to include Miami-Dade County.

Earlier this week, city commissioners in Miami Beach said they wanted to use the city's national reputation as a destination and a haven for gays to push national Boys Scout leaders to end the organization's discriminatory policy.

In a preliminary vote, the seven commissioners voted unanimously to expand the city's human rights ordinance to deny the waiver of rental fees for municipal facilities to organizations that discriminate.

If approved Sept. 27, the change would require a group that applies for a waiver of those fees to confirm in writing that it does not discriminate based on "race, color, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, handicap, marital status, familial status or age."

That would put additional pressure on the Scouts, who have been under intense scrutiny since June, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the group has the right to exclude gays.

"With respect to the Boy Scouts, or any organization, we need to make certain that that kind of intolerance will not be tolerated," Vice Mayor Nancy Liebman said. Miami Beach does not directly fund the Scouts, Liebman said.

On Monday, Fort Lauderdale commissioners turned down a $10,000 grant request from the organization.

Tuesday, Wilton Manors give preliminary approval to a proposal similar to Miami Beach's. The Wilton Manors measure comes up for a second vote Sept. 26.

The battle shifted on Wednesday with two new developments:

Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Tim Smith, who led the effort to deny the group money, proposed a possible deal in which the city would release the funds if the Scouts tempered their policy. He suggested that the South Florida Council, Boy Scouts of America, agree to welcome gay leaders under certain conditions. For example, discussions on sex could be prohibited, Smith said.

The Diversity Committee of the Broward County School Board said it will meet in a special session Monday to consider recommending that the district sever its relationship with the Scouts.

In Miami-Dade, schools Superintendent Roger Cuevas has decided to maintain the status quo pending legal review. Scouts can continue to use school facilities.

Miami Beach commissioners said they were grappling with how to pressure the national group to change its policy without hurting local Scouts and leaders who don't agree with the practice.

"We have Boy Scouts here, and I don't think they discriminate," Commissioner Matti Herrera Bower said.