A board member of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) recently resigned to protest a scout leader’s termination based on her sexuality. The board member stated that although BSA explained its standing policy to bar gay leaders, he still believed the act was “wholly discriminatory.” (Read his entire letter here.)
Courts have already reviewed and upheld BSA’s policy barring gay leaders even though the Unruh Civil Rights Act requires business establishments to provide full and equal accommodations, facilities, privileges and services.
This is because while courts have applied the Act to charitable organizations, the California Supreme Court has ruled that certain charitable organizations, including BSA, do not qualify as “business establishments.” In other words, certain charities, including BSA, can discriminate without punishment.
However, if your charity wants to establish a program that discriminates against certain groups, consult an attorney specializing in nonprofit law before you do. Application of the Act is subjective at best and there are many factors that the court can use to determine that your charity is in fact a business establishment and thus subject to the Act.
Further, even if the court eventually rules that your charity can engage in discrimination, you will first have to get through a long litigation process that could cost your organization thousands.
Meanwhile, BSA is refusing to meet with the ousted pack leader. If you want to support her plight, check out her online petition at Change.org (which has already racked up more than 250,000 signatures).