A San Diego appellate court panel is assessing arguments over whether the Boy Scouts of America, which bans gay troop leaders and insists people make a pledge to God, has the right to use city-owned parkland.

Mark Danis, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the appeals panel, “San Diego city land can’t be used as the headquarters of a discriminatory organisation,” Mr Danis said. “This organisation kicks people out if they don’t believe in God and our clients are agnostics, they chose to not believe in God, and they can’t use city land on an equal basis with Boy Scouts.”

The Press Association reports that the American Civil Liberties Union sued San Diego and the Boy Scouts in August 2000 on behalf of a lesbian couple and an agnostic couple, each with scouting-age sons. They filed the lawsuit after the City Council voted to extend the group’s 50-year lease of Balboa Park camp space for another 25 years.

In June 2000 the US Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America has a constitutional right to exclude openly gay men from serving as troop leaders.

Simon Carter, a spokesman for the Scout Association, the umbrella group for UK Scout groups told PinkNews.co.uk: “You have to consider where the American Scouts are coming from. They are based in the South where much of the education is Bible based.”

“They are a product of a society where many Americans see gay people as a threat to children.”

He said that homosexuality in UK Scouts comes under their equality charter, “We welcome anybody to work with children regardless of sexuality, class, gender or ethnicity. We just want good youth leaders.”

“This policy helps young people learn about diversity and the modern world.”