BY William McGuinness
April 07 2010 6:15 PM ET
The Boy Scouts of America celebrated its 100th anniversary in February, but some former and current supporters allege the organization has stepped around municipal and corporate sponsors' nondiscrimination policies to remain viable through an affiliate organization.
In 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote that the Boy Scouts, a private organization, could bar gays from serving as troop leaders. While city governments and businesses across the country subsequently pulled support for the BSA due to their own antidiscrimination policies, other groups continued to sponsor programs of Learning for Life, a BSA affiliate that does not exclude gay members or troop leaders. The Irving, Texas–based organization operates more than 300 posts nationwide and offers “Explorer” programs, which mentor and assist youths age 14 to 20 years old in selecting and achieving careers.
The San Fernando Valley Bar Association in Los Angeles, a group of more than 2,000 attorneys, is currently paying close attention to precedents set by other entities in regard to Learning for Life funding, including the United Way and the city of Los Angeles.
In 2007 the SFVBA started a Learning for Life Explorer Post to attract a more diverse group of teens in the legal profession. But the bar association's diversity committee is split on whether Learning for Life’s nondiscrimination policy, which includes sexual orientation, exists separate from the Boy Scouts of America’s, or if the BSA has used its subsidiary group as a tool to minimize the number of corporations and organizations pulling funding following the Supreme Court ruling.
One SFVBA member told The Advocate that any monies directed toward supporting a group that discriminates is diametrically opposed to the bar association's stated purpose.
“If this were discriminating against African-Americans, Jewish people, or any other minority group, our relationship with Learning for Life would be finished,” said the member, who asked not to be named for this article. “But because this is discriminating against the LGBT community, diversity board members are not taking this seriously.”
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