A California bill that could strip tax-exempt status from Little League, the Boy Scouts of America and other “discriminatory” nonprofit youth-serving groups could come up for a final vote this week.
The first-of-its-kind bill, SB 323, passed the California Senate and sailed through Assembly committees to a floor vote, possibly this week.
But opponents are taking heart that there might not be enough votes in the state Assembly to pass the bill.
The chamber did not consider the bill in its Monday session, but may take it up when it convenes Friday.
The bill, introduced by State Sen. Ricardo Lara, names the Boy Scouts, Little League, Future Farmers of America and 19 other organizations as examples of groups that could be stripped of their tax-exempt status if found to discriminate based on gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality, race, religion or religious affiliation.
The measure also threatens tax-exempt status for public and private schools found to sponsor discriminatory youth groups. One critic said it could even threaten an exemption status held by a church.
“Traditional values regarding heterosexuality are being branded as the legal equivalent of racism, and so there’s the quite genuine fear that the tax code really is the battleground against the traditional churches,” said Alan Reinach, executive director of Church State Council, which opposes SB 323.
“It’s not about ‘live and let live.’ If the churches do not conform to the values of homosexuality, then we will lose our standing in society,” he said.
Proponents of Mr. Lara’s bill — called the Youth Equality Act — say groups that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) or atheist youths should not receive preferential tax status.
LGBT youths need to be assured that they can have “equal access to participate in all youth organizations,” said Mr. Lara, who has spoken of his own experiences as a gay youth.
Supporters of the bill include Equality California, the American Civil Liberties Union, the California National Organization for Women, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, the city of West Hollywood and the Service Employees International Union of California.
Opponents include traditional-values groups, as well as three churches: Calvary Assembly of God, First Christian Church and Lighthouse Baptist Church.
They say SB 323 discriminates against organizations that have faith-based convictions and forces them to adopt the government’s viewpoint on sexual orientation and gender identity in their hiring, practices, membership, objectives or activities.
Many youth groups do not even hold their own tax-exempt status, but operate under the exemption of their church conference, said Mr. Reinach, whose public policy organization focuses on religious-freedom issues.
So if a youth group is found to be discriminatory, “what are you going to do — revoke the tax exemption for two dozen schools and 150 churches or at least all of their youth groups?” he asked.