Bill aims to end tax-exempt status of anti-gay youth groups, including Boy Scouts

Fri. February 22, 2013 9:33 AM by Carlos Santoscoy

California State Senator Richard Lara on Tuesday introduced a bill which would remove a state tax exemption for any youth group that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Lara stated in a press release that the bill was a response to the ongoing controversy surrounding the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

Last summer, the BSA upheld its ban on openly gay scouts and leaders.

Leaders were set to vote on a proposal which would lift the national ban and allow local chapters to decide the issue. Instead, the BSA announced earlier this month that it would allow the 1,400 voting members of the national council to decide the issue when they meet in May.

"Our state values the important role that youth groups play in the empowerment of our next generation; this is demonstrated by rewarding organizations with tax exemptions supported financially by all Californians," Lara said in a statement. "SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax exemption privilege should they not comply with our non-discrimination laws."

John O'Connor, executive director of Equality California, the state's largest gay rights advocate, applauded the move.

"California does not tolerate discrimination, and by removing this exemption, we will make it clear to the Boy Scouts and all other organizations that discrimination has a real cost."

More than 6,000 people as of Thursday had signed on to a petition from Eddie Kurtz, a straight former Boy Scout, urging lawmakers to approve Lara's proposed legislation.

"I grew up in the Boy Scout tradition," Kurtz said in a statement. "I started out as a Cub Scout, transitioned through Webelos, and ended my Boy Scout journey as a Life Scout, one rank below Eagle. My closest friends were other scouts. Scouting stands for the finest qualities of humanity: self-reliance, creativity, and an appreciation of nature. Most of all, we were taught how to act as responsible, respectful citizens. This is why the Boy Scouts' continued policy of excluding members based on their sexual orientation is so upsetting to me. It flies in the face of the very values that the scouting tradition professes to teach. As a straight ally, I can't sit idle while the current leaders of the Boy Scouts disgrace this once-proud American institution with their personal bigotry."

Article provided in partnership with On Top Magazine