California’s seven Supreme Court judges have voted unanimously to prohibit state judges from holding membership in the Boy Scouts of America; the ruling is based on the grounds that the Scouts discriminate against gays.
California is one of several states that has rules on the books banning judges from holding memberships in groups that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; the court, however, also carved out an exception for non-profit youth groups, including the Boy Scouts.
Everything changed, however, when an ethics advisory committee recommended the ban last year.
The San Francisco Gate has the history:
California has been among 23 states with an ethical code that prohibits judges from belonging to organizations that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. But the state’s Supreme Court in 1996 approved an exemption, unique to California, for “nonprofit youth organizations” to accommodate judges affiliated with the Boy Scouts.
The Bar Association of San Francisco and other legal organizations sought to repeal that exemption in 2003. The court refused, and instead instructed judges to disclose connections to the Boy Scouts when they heard 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 The organization repealed that ban at a national meeting in May 2013, effective the following January, but maintained the prohibition on gay and lesbian youth leaders.
“The people of California have a right to an impartial and unbiased judiciary,” Richard Fybel, a state appeals court justice in Santa Ana and chairman of the high court’s ethics advisory committee, said Friday. “This is important to accomplishing that.”
The ethics committee offered its recommendation in February of last year, but the Supreme Court elected to hold off on making its final decision on the matter until two Brown-appointed judges took the bench this year.
Judges have until January 21 of next year to dump their membership; if they don’t they could face removal from the bench.
Will we see a challenge to this rule? My guess is yes; we’ll keep you posted on what happens next.
Image via Scoutlander