The latest institution to put pressure on the Boy Scouts of America for choosing to uphold discriminatory policies is the state of California.
Current state law dictates that nonprofit youth groups, including the Boy Scouts of America, are exempt from paying taxes on income from sources such as fundraisers or membership dues, including sales taxes on food and beverages that they sell.
According to the text of SB 323, “This bill would also provide that … a public charity youth organization that discriminates on the basis of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or religious affiliation is not exempt from the taxes imposed by that law.”
Though the BSA is mentioned by name in the bill, it’s only one of a number of groups; if passed, the bill would add a line of text to the current law stating that those named “shall not discriminate on the basis of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or religious affiliation.”
In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a ruling that private groups have the right to discriminate, but if SB 323 becomes law, it wouldn’t be the first time a governmental institute has responded to the BSA’s discriminatory policies by revoking privileges.
Some cities that previously granted them free facility use have rescinded it until such time as their guidelines are revised; one of which, a 2006 case in Berkeley, California, also upheld that the city had the right to deny free rent to the BSA because of their ban on gays.
Religious conservatives have claimed that SB 323 would violate the discrimination ruling from 2000, but according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Legislature does in fact have the legal authority to decide what qualifies a group for tax breaks.
The leader of a middle school Girl Scouts group, Shannon Lowes Rice, told 429Magazine, “Girl Scouts is about empowering young ladies and learning to be future leaders. Since leaders come in all races, religions and orientations, it just makes sense that we would include anyone who wants to be part of the group.”
Although also named in the bill, their policy of welcoming all girls, including those who are gay, bisexual, or transgender, means the Girl Scouts would remain exempt from taxation.
SB 323 will require a 2/3 majority to pass, and is set to be heard April 10. If it becomes law, as a tax levy, it will take effect immediately.