Long Beach Post: Lara Seeks to Remove Tax Exemptions for Youth Groups that Discriminate Against Gays

February 20, 2013

Lara Seeks to Remove Tax Exemptions for Youth Groups that Discriminate Against Gays

    By Greggory Moore
     | Wednesday, 20 February 2013 08:49

In July 2012 the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) reaffirmed its longtime policy to deny membership "to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals." Now State Senator Ricardo Lara believes it's time to deny the Boy Scouts its tax-exempt status.

According to a press release, on Tuesday Lara, in partnership with gay-rights organization Equality California, "announced the introduction of new legislation that would remove 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."

Lara's bill, the Youth Equality Act (SB 323), would end "exemptions from state corporate taxes and taxes on items they sell […] for youth groups that continue to discriminate by treating their sales to the same extent as any other retailers," as well as "requir[ing] organizations with discriminatory policies to pay corporate taxes on donations and other forms of income," says the press release.

"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,” says Lara, whose 33rd State Senate District includes Long Beach. "SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax exemption privilege should they not comply with our non-discrimination laws."

Current California law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in public accommodations and government programs.

Last July the BSA said its decision to maintain the organization's prohibition of homosexuals came after a two-year process of examination, a process that resulted in a "conclusion […] that this policy reflects the beliefs and perspectives of the BSA’s members, thereby allowing Scouting to remain focused on its mission and the work it is doing to serve more youth."

But just last month reports surfaced that the BSA is considering allowing local chapter to decide for themselves whether to admit gay members.

“The chartered organizations that oversee and deliver scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with their organization’s mission, principles or religious beliefs,” said BSA spokesperson Deron Smith.

In an interview with CBS News earlier this month, President Barack Obama—who is also the honorary president of the BSA—called upon the organization to end its ban, echoing a statement he made last year shortly after the BSA's affirmation of its current prohibition.

“My attitude is that gays and lesbians should have access and opportunity the same way everybody else does, in every institution and walk of life," said the president. "The Scouts are a great institution that are promoting young people and exposing them to opportunities and leadership that will serve people for the rest of their lives. And I think nobody should be barred from that."