California has moved one step closer to revoking the tax exemption for the Boy Scouts because of their prohibition against gay members.
The California State Senate Governance and Finance Committee approved The Youth Equality Act by a 5-2 vote on Wednesday, sending the bill to the Senate Committee on Appropriations.
According to the article, the BSA was supposed to vote on whether to lift the ban back in January, but delayed it until May. In the meantime, they’re facing the prospect of having to pay taxes for the first time if they decide to keep their current policy. Keep in mind, also, that this refers to state taxes, not federal ones. They would still be exempt from those regardless of what this decision is.
Not everyone is on board with this measure … and it’s not the usual suspects like the Church of LDS or Southern Baptists.
The California Association of Nonprofits, which has 1,500 member organizations, said it opposed the legislation in its current form, even though the group opposes discrimination based upon sexual orientation or gender identity as outlined in the bill, SB 323.
“ … we are against using the tax exemption as a way to compel change in a nonprofit’s policies,” Kris Lev-Twombly, the group’s director of public policy, wrote late Wednesday in an email. “Stripping nonprofits of tax exemption on ideological grounds is a slippery slope. Nonprofits are the embodiments of free speech in our society. When we disagree with a nonprofit’s policies, we should vote by moving our donation dollars and our volunteer feet elsewhere.”
Again, for the record, the CAN opposes discrimination, but thinks this is the wrong way to get the BSA to change their minds. I honestly can’t comment with a great deal of depth on the legality of the situation since I’m not a lawyer, but I was under the impression that since the Boy Scouts wouldn’t be able to claim tax exemption if they were considered a public organization. I know they assert they are a private organization, but I found a summary of a recent court case from the Supreme Court of New Jersey, Boy Scouts of America v. Dale:
The Supreme Court of New Jersey held that the state’s antidiscrimination law was violated when the BSA expelled an Eagle Scout because he is gay. In reaching the decision, the court concluded that the Boy Scouts are not a private organization but instead are a public accommodation. Based on that conclusion, the court went on to find that the expulsion decision was not protected by the First Amendment as free speech (freedom of association).
BSA was found [by the SC of NJ] to be a public accommodation for the following reasons: BSA was chartered by Congress, 87 million males have joined the organization (founded in 1910), churches and police and fire departments sponsor local troops, and (most important, according to the court) BSA “does not limit its membership to individuals who belong to a particular religion or subscribe to a specific set of moral beliefs.” BSA was held to not be private “because it is not selective in its membership.” That destroyed the basis for any finding of freedom of intimate association.
As the summary points out, though, the decision was reversed by the Supreme Court because … basically … the BSA doesn’t exist for the purpose of promoting the idea that homosexuality is immoral. (I kind of think it does now, but that’s my personal opinion.) Further:
The Court wrote: “The forced inclusion of an unwanted person in a group infringes the group’s freedom of expressive association if the presence of that person affects in a significant way the group’s ability to advocate public or private viewpoints.”
Yeah … because a gay person would seriously cramp their style. Maybe they have a leg to stand on in the context of the law, but they give me the impression that should just grow up a little.
So that’s the story, as far as I understand it. I personally think that they’re eventually going to reverse their policy on homosexuality, only because that’s the way the general direction of public opinion is moving and they may be starting to realize they’re on the wrong side of history. (Not that I consider gay rights something of a fad, but it’s certainly making headlines on a regular basis in recent years.) This shift, combined with a younger generation of scout masters, could be enough to enact change from within. Alternatively, change could be enacted from outside as the public stops giving patronage to companies and organizations that actively discriminate against members of the LGBT community.