Long Beach Press Telegram
By Eric Bradley, Press-Telegram
The California Assembly will soon vote on a controversial bill by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, that would end state tax exemptions for the Boy Scouts of America and other youth groups if their membership policies discriminate based on sexual orientation.
Lara’s office said the legislation, Senate Bill 323, could be acted on this week or next. The final day of the session is Sept. 13.
Though the bill, known as the Youth Equality Act, also names organizations such as Little League, Girl Scouts, Young Men’s Christian Association, 4-H Clubs, Special Olympics Inc., American Youth Soccer Organization and Pop Warner football, Lara has said the law is intended to act as an umbrella against future discrimination and is not necessarily targeted at groups other than the Boys Scouts.
Lara could not be reached for comment Wednesday but has talked before about SB 323, which would end state exemptions on corporate taxes on donations or other income.
“We’re not saying you have to let folks in, but if you choose to actually discriminate against somebody for being LGBT, we shouldn’t be giving you the privilege of a tax exemption that is supported by all California,” Lara told the Press-Telegram in February.
The law was introduced last winter, before the Boys Scouts of America voted to allow gay youths but not adults. Lara said after the decision that the Scouts’ half-measure was not sufficient.
Opposition to Lara’s bill include the Calvary Assembly of God, Capitol Resource Institute, First Christian Church, Lighthouse Baptist Church, Traditional Values Coalition and Pacific Justice Institute.
Matt McReynolds, assistant counsel at the Pacific Justice Institute, compared SB 323 to the recent scandal where the U.S. Internal Revenue Service revealed it had targeted groups applying for tax-exempt status based on their politics.
He also called it a “major leap” to consider sexual orientation in the same category as race, and to tie a group’s social beliefs to its status under tax code.
“If you go that direction, you’ve got to end tax exemptions for all religious organizations,” McReynolds said. “It has sweeping implications. That’s definitely something we would take issue with, and something a lot of Californians would take issue with.”
Boy Scouts representatives have declined several requests to comment specifically on Lara’s legislation.
On Wednesday, Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said in a statement: “The focus of our 23 local Boy Scouts councils across the state of California is to deliver the Scouting program to more than 180,000 youth, many of whom are disadvantaged and at risk. Scouting gives young people the opportunity to develop skills and take responsibility while inspiring a lifetime of character and service.”
Among other youth organizations that could be affected by the bill, Little League Baseball has a policy that forbids discrimination against any person on the basis of race, creed, color, national original, marital status, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
“In order to be an officially chartered Little League, any local organization must adhere to this policy for all players and volunteers,” Little League spokesman Brian McClintock wrote in an email Wednesday.
The Girl Scouts of the United States of America has its own inclusion rules that say the group does not “discriminate or recruit on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, national origin, or physical or developmental disability.”
SB 323 requires a two-thirds “super majority” of the Assembly because it deals with taxes. Democrats are one member short of the threshold.
The law’s co-authors include numerous Southern California Assembly members: Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach; Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica; Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles; Cristina Garcia, D-Artesia; Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, and Holly Mitchell, D-Culver City.
Eric Bradley can be reached at 562-499-1254.