US: Bill to remove tax-exempt status from Boy Scouts passes California Senate

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A bill which would remove the tax-exempt status of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), unless it fully accepted gay members, volunteers, and staff, has been approved in the Senate in the US state of California.

Despite the BSA’s new policy which will allow openly gay members to serve in the organisation from 1 January 2014, Senate Bill 323 would still mean the BSA would lose its tax-exempt status in the state, as it still does not allow openly gay adult scout leaders or volunteers.

The bill, introduced by Democratic Senator Ricardo Lara, would remove the tax-exempt status for groups such as the BSA which discriminate on the basis of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion or religion.

Senator Lara said: “Equality does not have an expiration date… Discrimination should not be subsidised.”

Because the bill changes California’s tax law, it required a two-thirds majority in order to pass, and as it passed 27 votes to 9 in the Senate, the bill will now move over to the Assembly.

If it passes, and is signed into law, it will require organisations such as the BSA to pay tax on donations, camp fees and membership dues. It would also be required to pay sales tax on food, beverages and homemade items sold at fundraisers.

In a statement from the BSA, Deron Smith said: “Today, more than ever, youth need the character and leadership programs of Scouting. We are disappointed with anything that impacts our ability to serve more youth.”

Scouting leaders have objected to the bill, saying it could harm local BSA troops, which serve 180,000 youth members. Conservative legal aid groups have threatened to sue if the legislation is signed into law, on the basis that it discriminates based on religious belief.