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California bill would remove state tax exemption for youth groups that discriminate

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- On the heels of the controversy surrounding the Boys Scouts of America's policy to exclude members of the LGBT community as Scouts or adult leaders, state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) and Equality California today announced the introduction of new legislation that would remove a state tax exemption for any youth group, including the Boy Scouts, that discriminate against members and leaders on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Currently, organizations that discriminate on these grounds may still receive sales and corporate tax exemptions, a provision that is intended to encourage acting in the public interest.

"Our state values the important role that youth groups play in the empowerment of our next generation; this is demonstrated by rewarding organizations with tax exemptions supported financially by all Californians," Lara said. "SB 323 seeks to end the unfortunate discriminatory and outdated practices by certain youth groups by revoking their tax exemption privilege should they not comply with our non-discrimination laws."

"California does not tolerate discrimination, and by removing this exemption, we will make it clear to the Boy Scouts and all other organizations that discrimination has a real cost," said John O'Connor, Equality California executive director. "We believe this legislation will encourage groups to do the right thing, which is ending their discriminatory policies that unfairly exclude LGBT people."

Some organizations in California, defined similarly to non-profit organizations under federal law, receive exemptions from state corporate taxes and taxes on items they sell. SB 323 would end this exemption for youth groups that continue to discriminate by treating their sales to the same extent as any other retailers. This bill would also require organizations with discriminatory policies to pay corporate taxes on donations and other forms of income.

Existing California law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in public accommodations and government programs, and this law will end a special exemption for organizations that discriminate on these bases.