US: California lawmaker introduces bill to remove tax-exempt status from Boy Scouts

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A Californian lawmaker has introduced a bill which would remove the tax exempt status from youth groups such as the Boy Scouts of America, if they uphold policies excluding gay members.

The Boy Scouts of American is currently embroiled in a debate over whether to lift its ban on gay volunteers, members and staff. Earlier in February, it delayed a vote on whether or not to lift the ban until May “due to the complexity of the issue”.

The BSA would effectively be removing its national policy which does not allow gay people, and therefore allowing individual scout troops to decide whether or not to be inclusive.

Gay teenager, Ryan Andresen, was recently denied the highest Boy Scouts honour, the Eagle Scout badge, by the Boy Scouts of America, for being gay, despite a recommendation for approval from a review board at his local council, and a 460,000 strong petition in his favour.

The Californian bill, number 323 and also known as the Youth Equality Act, was introduced by State Senator Ricardo Lara, on Wednesday.

Eric Andresen, father of Ryan, said he had mixed feelings about the bill. He said: “This is one of many consequences that may come into play if they continue to be discriminatory and in California. It’s really not acceptable at all… I don’t want to see troops folding because they’ve lost funding.”

He went on to say that he hoped the BSA wouldn’t just change its policy in order to keep its tax-exempt status, but that the organisation would realise why he and his family made their plea back in 2012.

“Boy scouts of America needs to catch up to the 21st century. Discrimination is not okay anymore, no matter where you are and they need to stop this policy,” he said. “I think, if the State of California has an opportunity to make it clear that discrimination is not acceptable, then this is an appropriate bill to put forward.”

Around 70% of scout troops are sponsored by religious denominations, including some which encouraged the BSA to uphold its ban on gay people.

Because it requires a change to California tax law, Bill 323 would require a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature to pass.

A new poll released earlier in February found that a majority of US voters thought the Boy Scouts of America should drop its ban on gay scouts, volunteers and staff.

Earlier this week, the President of the Family Research Council, Tony Perkins voiced his opinion that the Boy Scouts of America should leave intact the ban, saying that a policy similar to the repealed ban on openly gay people serving in the military would be appropriate.