State Senator Ricardo Lara is not backing off his bill that would remove the tax exempt status of Boy Scout groups.
The organization recently changed its policy to allow gay scouts but not adult scout leaders, counselors or volunteers.
“All of sudden, when you turn 18, you’re somehow a danger to youth and you’re some sort of pedophile. I think it’s pretty disgusting,” said Lara, who is an openly gay lawmaker.
Opponents of the bill say the wording means groups like Girl Scouts would have to pay taxes on the sale of girl scout cookies if boys aren’t allowed as members. They say church sponsored youth and sports groups would also lose their tax free fund raising ability if a member who is a member of a different religion didn’t believe in a religious practice like praying or bible study for instance.
The bill passed in the State Senate with a two-thirds majority which is required of all tax measures. The Assembly will now consider the bill.
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly who represents a conservative rural district says the bill is agains the First Amendment of the Constitution because freedom of association is protected.
“This bill discriminates against Americans who choose to freely associate and who have a core set of beliefs,” said Donnelly.
He says the law should protect religious freedom, not hinder it.
Lara acknowledges that the Supreme Court has ruled that the Boy Scouts and other private organizations can legally choose their own membership criteria.
But he also says tax exemptions are paid for by all Californians who are clearly against any form of discrimination. He says if discriminatory practices are changed, tax exempt status can be reinstated.
It’s unclear if there if two-thirds of the Assembly will vote for the bill.