Frontiers LA Blog: CA Sen. Ricardo Lara and EQCA Take on the Boy Scouts

February 19, 2013

CA Sen. Ricardo Lara and EQCA Take on the Boy Scouts
by Karen Ocamb on February 19, 2013

(Openly gay California State Sen. Ricardo Lara at EQCA event August 2012. Photo by Karen Ocamb)
For a brief shining week at the end of January and into February, it appeared that the private, religious-based Boy Scouts of America might  relent, acknowledge the progress made in ending discrimination against LGBT people, and lift its ban on gays serving as scouts or scout leaders.   Of course, antigay groups such as the Family Research Council freaked out with FRC distributing a “May Day” to members to get in touch with BSA board members. It worked. BSA decided to postpone any decision until May, which was fine with FRC:

Like you, we’re encouraged that the Board chose not to walk away from 103 years of tradition, but now the real work begins. As far as we’re concerned, it’s not enough that the Board postponed the decision on homosexuality. Instead, the Scouts should publicly reaffirm their current standards on homosexuality, as they did in July. Until they do, FRC will continue to rally parents and the faith-based groups chartering the majority of troops to reject any proposal that compromises their moral convictions. For now, educating Scout leaders about the dangerous fallout of a “fully inclusive” policy will be our top priority. FRC will continue to communicate with the BSA about the grave consequences that will result if the Scouts turn their backs on their common sense standards. The threats from the Left will keep coming, but we stand united in our goal to protect children and preserve the Boy Scouts’ proud heritage.

Right again, though “threats from the Left” are actually much more in concert with American public opinion. A new national voter survey conducted by the Center for American Progress and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders in advance of the Supreme Court hearings on Prop 8 and DOMA shows “an increase in public opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, as a clear case of discrimination and support for equal treatment for legally married same-sex couples under federal law—even if the individual polled is generally opposed to marriage equality.”

And on Tuesday, Feb. 19, openly gay California State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) and Equality California introduced SB 323, a bill to advance that trend by removing a “state tax exemption for any youth group, including the Boy Scouts, that discriminate against members and leaders on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, organizations that discriminate on these grounds may still receive sales [see items BSA sells here ] and corporate tax exemptions, a provision that is intended to encourage acting in the public interest,” according to a joint press release. “SB 323 would end this exemption for youth groups that continue to discriminate by treating their sales to the same extent as any other retailers. This bill would also require organizations with discriminatory policies to pay corporate taxes on donations and other forms of income.

“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,” stated Senator Lara. “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.”

“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,” said John O’Connor, Equality California executive director. “We believe this legislation will encourage groups to do the right thing, which is ending their discriminatory policies that unfairly exclude LGBT people.”