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outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax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
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.”