California judges barred from Boy Scouts over anti-gay discrimination

Boy Scouts
Boy Scout James Volonte, then 14, helps raise an American flag before the start of the annual July 4 parade in Huntington Beach in 2013.
(Susannah Kay / Los Angeles Times)

California judges will no longer be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts organization after the state Supreme Court voted this week to eliminate an exception to a rule that bars jurists from being a part of discriminatory organizations.

The Boy Scouts of America continues to bar gay and lesbian adults from serving as leaders in the organization, even after lifting a ban on openly gay youth.

California’s judicial code of ethics bars judges from holding “membership in any organization that practices invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity or sexual orientation.”

Until this week, California had provided an exception covering nonprofit youth organizations, including the Boy Scouts, the only state in the nation to do so.


California is one of 47 states that bans judges from joining discriminatory groups, and one of 22 that includes a ban on groups that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

An ethics advisory committee to the California Supreme Court proposed the change again last year, saying it would “promote the integrity of the judiciary” and “enhance public confidence” in the judicial branch’s impartiality.

Efforts to change the policy in 2003 failed, but the court advised judges to disclose their membership in cases where it might be relevant, and to be prepared to step away if a party questioned the judge’s impartiality.

The Supreme Court voted on the matter Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, but the change was not announced until Friday.


Judges have until January of next year to comply with the new rules.

A previous exception allowing membership in military organizations has also been eliminated now that the armed forces no longer restrict service based on sexual orientation, the committee said.

The only remaining exception to the anti-discrimination rule is membership in a religious organization.

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