Calif. Bill Challenges Boy Scouts' Antigay Policy

By Jase Peeples

Originally published on Advocate.com May 30 2013 6:01 PM ET

The California state Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would deny nonprofit tax breaks to any youth organization that discriminates based on gender identity, race, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation.

Measure SB323 passed with a landmark 27-9 vote, making it the first LGBT rights bill in the state’s history to pass with a two-thirds majority.

Sponsored by by Democratic senator Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens, the bill would make groups such as the Boy Scouts of America — which recently agreed to accept openly gay young people as scouts while continuing to bar gay adults from becoming leaders — ineligible for state tax breaks.

"Equality does not have an expiration date," Lara told the Associated Press. "Discrimination should not be subsidized."

Conservative legal groups have vowed to sue if the bill becomes law, claiming the legislation punishes groups based on their beliefs, while scout leaders say the measure would harm the state’s troops, which serve thousands of young people. "This bill is about government vilifying our values and abusing its power to penalize, through taxation, those who hold different beliefs and values," said Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute, a conservative organization.

If the bill is approved by the Assembly and signed into law by the governor, organizations failing to meet the new standards for tax breaks would have to pay sales tax on food and beverages sold at fund-raisers as well as corporate taxes on membership dues and donations.