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California Senate approves tax penalty bill aimed at Boy Scouts

Boy Scouts of America National Commissioner Tico Perez, right, and President Wayne Perry at a news conference last Thursday in Texas where the group announced that openly gay minors would be allowed to become Scouts. A bill approved by the California Senate on Wednesday would deny the Scouts a state tax exemption because the group does not allow gay adults to participate.
(Tony Gutierrez / Associated Press)

The state Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would strip tax-exempt status from nonprofit groups including the Boy Scouts of America that deny participation of people based on sexual orientation or religion

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said he was glad the Boy Scouts’ national council recently decided to allow openly gay minors to serve as Scouts, but said it was unacceptable that the organization did not also lift its ban on adult leaders who are gay.

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“We’ve given the Boy Scouts ample time to solve their discrimination problem and they have chosen a path that still leads to discrimination,” Lara told his colleagues.

SB 323 would strip an exemption to state sales, use and corporate taxes from nonprofit youth groups that discriminate based on sexual orientation and religion.

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Lara said the Boy Scouts of America is an “undeniably important” organization for young people.

But, he added, the group has “a central flaw so profound that until it is fully fixed it means they are out of line with the values of California and should be ineligible for a tax benefit paid for by all Californians.” He said allowing gays to participate until they turn 18, and then banning them as gay adults, implies absurdly that on their birthday they turn into pedophiles.

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Some Republicans voted against the measure, while others abstained. Sen. Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale) said his “no” vote stems from concern that the measure could also affect youth sports leagues and other valuable programs serving minors.

Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said the organization remains committed to serving the 180,000 scouts in California. “Today, more than ever, youth need the character and leadership programs of Scouting,” he said. “We are disappointed with anything that impacts our ability to serve more youth.”

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Because the bill changes tax policy, it required a two-thirds vote, or support from 27 of the 40 Senators. The vote was 27-9. The measure next goes to the Assembly for consideration.

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Assembly approves bill on gender identity in schools

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Assemblywoman Norma Torres wins election for Senate seat

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com


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