California May Ban Boy Scout Members From Serving as Judges

Monday, 21 Apr 2014 01:07 PM

By Sharon Churcher

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Controversy is mounting in California over a proposal to prohibit judges from belonging to the Boy Scouts of America because of the organization's ban on gay troop leaders, The Daily Caller reported.

In 1996, the state's high court banned judges from belonging to groups that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, but made an exception for nonprofit youth organizations.

The Boy Scouts decided last year to admit openly gay boys younger than 18 but has continued to prohibit gay and lesbian adults from serving as troop leaders.

In February, the state's Supreme Court judicial ethics committee proposed to classify the Boy Scouts as practicing "invidious discrimination" against gays, which would end the group's exemption from anti-discriminatory rules.

Eliminating the exception will "promote the integrity of the judiciary" and "enhance public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary," the committee, composed of judges and a lawyer for the chief justice, said. It invited public comment by April 15 on the proposal.

The Daily Caller reported that the reaction includes a letter from the legal director of the pro-life Life Legal Defense Foundation, Catherine Short, who warned the committee that its decision could lead to prohibitions against members of the judiciary who support other youth organizations such as the Girl Scouts, "whose membership is limited on the basis of gender." She contended that judges also would be banned from supporting the military, as it "continues to practice 'discrimination' on the basis of gender.

"This proposed amendment has as its overtly-stated purpose the branding of the BSA as an organization whose members must be assumed to be biased and thus unfit for the bench. The Committee states that 'eliminating the exemption… would enhance public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary,'" Short wrote.

"On the contrary, by promoting a hierarchy of politically-favored 'victim' status through pointlessly impugning the integrity of members of a venerable American institution, the proposed amendment will communicate to the public that judges are being told by the California Supreme Court what to think, whom they may associate with, and what are permissible opinions to hold, and that only those who toe the line will be allowed to sit on the bench. The public can hardly expect impartiality from the judiciary in such a climate of intolerance," Short wrote.

The Los Angeles Times reported that 47 states ban judges from joining discriminatory groups, and 22 states, including California, include a ban on groups that show bias on the basis of sexual orientation. According to the ethics committee, California is the only one of these that makes exceptions for youth groups.

The California Supreme Court will decide whether to approve the prohibition, which is proposed to take effect in August.

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