California Sen. Ricardo Lara is introducing the “Youth Equality Act” to try to remove the Boy Scouts of America's tax-exempt status because it discriminates against gays.
Lara aims to pass bill SB 323, which would end 501(c)3 status for all youth groups that continue to discriminate against homosexual youth in California. This bill would force organizations with discriminatory policies to pay corporate taxes on all donations and other forms of income.
The senator's office explains the bill in a statement:
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. SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax exemption privilege should they not comply with our non-discrimination laws.
In late Spring, SB 323, which now has 13 co-authors, is expected to be reviewed by various senate committees. If it makes it through the upper house, it will be reviewed by relevant state assembly committees.
Then, if the bill passes both houses, it will go to the Governor Jerry Brown for his signature or veto, sometime in mid-October. If the Governor signs the bill, it will become law on Jan. 1, 2014.
If the bill passes, the Franchise Tax Board and Board of Equalization would decide what groups are discriminatory and whether these groups would lose tax exempt status, which would no doubt spark a number of lawsuits.
The Boy Scouts of America, Los Angeles Area Council was unavailable for comment.
Following the introduction of the bill, straight ally and ex-Scout Eddie Kurtz started a petition supporting the Youth Equality Act on Signon.org.
After reading about the scoutmaster of Troop 212, who decided to deny boy scout Ryan Andreson his rank of Eagle Scout because of his sexual orientation, Kurtz decided to support the cause. The petition has nearly reached a goal of 10,000 signatures.
Kurtz tells L.A. Weekly:
I have been troubled by their [the Boy Scouts] position, and I work for the Courage Campaign. It's really screwed up, and the story on Andreson hit me on a personal level. I can't support these actions. Boys being bullied by the Boy Scouts, to me it's complete bigotry and it's allowed to go on. I heard of the legislation proposal the other day, and I thought this was a way to get the taxpayers involved. Most taxpayers are not going to support bigotry.
The Boy Scouts' national board backpedaled on a short-lived, possible removal of the its anti-gay policy.
Some believe the powerful Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, among other religious organizations, is behind the decision to keep the Scouts' anti-gay policy.
Mormon enrollment in Boy Scouts is shockingly high — Mormons make up 15 percent of 2.7 million registered Boy Scouts. And, according to Fox News, 70 percent of Boy Scout troops are sponsored by faith-based organizations.
The Mormon Church has released a statement denying any campaign to affect or prevent proposed changes in the Scouts' policy.
Regardless of the petition and proposed legislative changes, the Boy Scouts of America's national board is holding on to its original policy, stating:
After careful consideration and extensive dialogue within the scouting family, along with comments from those outside the organization, the volunteer officers of the Boy Scouts of America's National Executive Board concluded that due to the complexity of this issue, the organization needs time for a more deliberate review.
Ex-Scout Kurtz says this:
The Boy Scouts are supposed to be about good citizenship and helping people, teaching people to be self-reliant, but it does have this religious connotation too. All these kids who are learning values, are also now learning bigotry.
The bill would not just cover the Boy Scouts but also such organizations as Little League, Bobby Sox, Cub Scouts,Girl Scouts, Campfire, Inc., YMCA, YWCA, Future Farmers of America, Future Homemakers of America, 4-H Clubs, Distributive Education Clubs of America, Future Business Leaders of America, Vocational Industrial Clubs of America, Collegiate Young Farmers, Boys Club, Girls Club, Special Olympics, Inc., American Youth Soccer Organization, California Youth Soccer Association, North California Youth Soccer Association, South, and Pop Warner football.
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