California bill targets youth programs for discrimination

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A new California bill aimed at stopping discrimination in youth programs based on sexual orientation could take the tax-exempt status away from nonprofit organizations unless they admit LGBT members into their organization.

SB 323, the Youth Equality Act, aims to require nonprofit youth organizations to comply with California’s nondiscrimination law. Youth organizations that don’t allow membership to youth of a specific religious affiliation, sexual orientation or gender identity will lose special state tax privileges that come with having a nonprofit status. Senator Ricardo Lara, a Democrat representing District 33, proposed the bill along with Equality California in the hopes of stopping discrimination among youth groups that are aided by the state through tax exemptions.

Michael Nguyen, a legislative aide to Senator Lara, said the bill doesn’t try to determine membership for these youth organizations; rather, it is targeting discrimination based on sexual orientation present within organizations supported through state tax exemptions.

“We understand as private organizations there is a right to determine membership,” Nguyen said. “What we’re saying with this bill is that we choose not to pay for discriminatory actions.”

In contrast, there are people who see this bill as an attack on religion by asking these groups to compromise their beliefs in order to implement the bill. Joseph Ingoglia, a BYU graduate from Paradise, Calif., was going to dental school at the University of California, San Francisco while Proposition 8 was being voted on. He said the problem with laws that push for equality for the LGBT community is how they force groups to compromise their religious standards, which he doesn’t believe is right.

“We should treat people with respect and love, but we shouldn’t be forced to go against our own religious beliefs,” Ingoglia said.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute, a religiously-based legal defense organization, is opposed to the bill.

“If it passes we are prepared to challenge it in the courts as an unconstitutional violation of the freedom of religion and freedom of association clauses,” Dacus said.

Dacus said the bill has the potential to impact any youth group whether it is religious or non religious. He also said taking away the tax exemptions from these youth organizations could be devastating to the organizations financially.

“The tax rate is so high in California that nonprofit organizations would find themselves having to pay a substantial portion of their donations to the state of California,” Dacus said.

Dacus is also concerned passing the bill will create similar bills in states across the country or federally. He is also concerned with how the bill, if passed, will affect the organizations, which in turn will affect the youth who participate in them.

Laura Calvillo, a sophomore studying athletic training from Newport Beach, Calif., said there could be a domino effect onto youth in California. According to Calvillo, in order to graduate, high school students are required to do community service to a nonprofit organization. She said this law, which would take away an organization’s tax-exempt status, could cause confusion as to which organizations those students can do their community service with.

Calvillo said she also understands what it is like to be discriminated against, having been singled out for her race. She said that while this gives her an insight into how it might feel for LGBT community, she sees the bill as unreasonable because it seems one-sided.

“It can’t just swing one way and be like, this is how it’s going to be,” Calvillo said. “I think that there has to be compromise.”

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