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Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Calif. Judges May Ditch Boy Scouts Over Bias

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - California judges should be barred from Boy Scouts membership because the organization discriminates against the gay community, an advisory panel of the California Supreme Court has said.

The state's code of judicial ethics prohibits judges from holding memberships in organizations that practice "invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, religion, national origin, ethnicity or sexual orientation," according to the advisory committee's Wednesday report. The policy contains exceptions for religious, military and nonprofit youth organizations.

While the exception for religious organizations would remain in place, the panel proposed eliminating the military exemption since Congress repealed the so-called Don't Ask, Don't Tell law in 2010.

While the high court declined to remove the Boy Scouts' exemption in 2003, however, the committee noted that, of the 22 states that bar membership in organizations that discriminate against sexual orientation, only California has an exception for the Boy Scouts and other nonprofit youth organizations.

"California's status, combined with recent developments in the law relating to recognition of same-sex relationships, is anomalous and inconsistent with other principles in the canons," the committee said in its report. "In the committee's view, eliminating the exceptions would promote the integrity of the judiciary."

Although the Boy Scouts recently announced it would begin allowing openly gay boys to become scouts, it continues to bar gay and lesbian adults from serving as troop leaders. That continued discrimination poses an ethical quandary for judges, the committee said.

"Because the Boy Scouts of America continues to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, the committee agreed that eliminating the exception and prohibiting judges from being members of or playing a leadership role in the Boy Scouts would enhance public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary," the panel said.

The committee invited public comment on its proposal through April 15, after which the Supreme Court will have the final say.

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