The following comes from a Feb. 6 story on SFGate.com.
The state Supreme Court’s ethics advisory committee wants the court to prohibit California judges from membership in the Boy Scouts because the 2.7 million-member youth organization bars gays and lesbians from becoming troop leaders.
If the court agrees, California will join 21 other states whose judicial ethics codes have antidiscrimination provisions that forbid judges from affiliating with the Boy Scouts.
Banning scout membership would “promote the integrity of the judiciary” and “enhance public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary,” the ethics committee said Wednesday.
In response, Deron Smith, a spokesman at Boy Scouts headquarters in Irving, Texas, said the Scouts “would be disappointed with anything that limits our volunteers’ ability to serve more youth. … Today, more than ever, youth need the character and leadership programs of Scouting.”
The court rejected a similar proposal in 2003 from the Bar Association of San Francisco and other legal organizations. Instead, the justices decided to instruct judges to disclose any connections to the Boy Scouts in cases involving gay rights and related issues, and to disqualify themselves for any conflicts of interest.
At the time, the Scouts also barred gay youths as members, a policy the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld in 2000. The organization repealed that ban at a contentious national council meeting in May, effective this Jan. 1, but maintained the prohibition on gay and lesbian adult leaders.
The ethics committee’s unanimous recommendation is another sign of a changing climate that has included increasing public, political and judicial support for same-sex marriage. Six of the advisory committee’s eight members are judges, and the chairman is Richard Fybel, a state appeals court justice in Santa Ana.
The panel noted that 22 states, including California, prohibit judges from belonging to organizations that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, but only California exempts “nonprofit youth organizations” from that prohibition. The state’s high court, which sets judicial ethics standards, adopted that exemption in 1996 to accommodate judges affiliated with the Boy Scouts.
“Selecting one organization for special treatment is of special concern, especially in light of changes in the law in California and elsewhere prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” the committee said.
The Boy Scouts also ban atheists and agnostics as members. California’s judicial ethics code forbids membership in organizations that discriminate based on religion, among other categories, but has not applied it to the Scouts because of the exemption for nonprofit youth groups.
The committee has requested public comments through April 15 and has asked the court to repeal the Boy Scout exemption on Aug. 1.
To read the original story, click here.