The California Senate passed a bill that would revoke the tax exempt status of the Boy Scouts of America for discrimination against LGBT adults. This bold move by the California legislature sets a commanding precedent that discrimination against the LGBT community will not be tax-exempt.
The Youth Equality Act of 2013, known as SB 323, was approved by a 27-9 vote on Thursday. It is set to end sales and corporate tax exemptions for any youth group that discriminated against members or participants on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This response to the Boy Scouts' recent announcement to include gay members but ban adult gay Scout leaders was authored by California Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach), the first openly gay Hispanic elected to the California state senate in 2011.
SB 323 is momentous proof of California's laws reflecting its values. “This is a historic milestone in California history — it is the first time one of the state’s legislative chambers has voted in favor of an LGBT piece of legislation with a two-thirds majority,” said John O’Connor, Equality California executive director.
Sen. Lara summarized the bill powerfully in a statement on the California Senate floor: “We shouldn’t allow discrimination to be subsidized; not in our state, not on our dime.”
The Boy Scouts' gay policy serves as a symbolic representation of the ongoing debate for gay rights since it is connected to all sectors of society — public (tax breaks), nonprofit (communitydevelopment), corporate (major fundraiser). It touches all the different aspects of life in America that are currently going through the growing pains of adopting an inclusive culture.
Somehow anti-LGBT advocates have associated open expression of identity as equal to degrading morality. When the decision to include gay members was announced many prominent conservatives declared another round of world-ending warnings. Growing anti-LGBT vitriol that has emerged from this broader national debate has even resulted in increased violence against LGBT members of society.
The Boy Scouts' reluctant easing of inclusiveness is proof of "absurd assumptions and stereotypes that perpetuate homophobia and ignorance" according to Sen. Lara. Instead of further justifying the sluggedness of acceptance, the Boy Scouts could have chosen to represent a new frontier of social development. They chose the safer route of appeasing both sides of the debate which really has only served to anger both further.
In light of this, SB 323 is a resounding statement on the future of LGBT rights, and not just within the Boy Scouts. More states will focus on protecting their LGBT constituents against discrimination at every level without the world caving in.
This is just a matter of time.