California law would remove tax exempt status for anti-gay Boy Scouts

Ricardo LaraPhoto:

A California state Senator on Tuesday introduced legislation that would remove the state’s tax exempt status for any youth group — including the Boy Scouts of America — that bans members on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ricardo Lara

The measure, SB323, was introduced by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) from Los Angeles County, comes as the Boy Scouts considers a change to its existing policy that bans gay scouts, and prohibits gay and lesbian scout leaders, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

Under what backers are calling the “Youth Equality Act,” tax-exempt organizations — including student groups or sports and activity groups organized through public or private schools — would be barred from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

If passed, it would be the first such law in the country to revoke the tax-exempt status of youth organizations.

Supporters of the bill say they hope the measure would affect the Boy Scouts in particular, and hope it will add pressure to the national scouting organization, based in Irving, Texas, as leaders there consider whether or not to rescind the anti-gay policy.

Lara said he had considered proposing the bill earlier but wanted to wait until the Scouts’ February meeting to see whether its leadership would change its policy on its own.

“It looks like they’re going to kick the can down the road, so I thought that here in California the very least that we can do is that those who decide to continue to discriminate will not continue to have the tax exemption,” he said.

Supporters said they were not currently aware of any other youth group that would be affected by the law. Girl Scouts of the USA has had a non-discrimination policy for more than three decades.

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