California Supreme Court Bars Judges From Belonging To Boy Scouts

Only remaining exemption from the ban is religious organizations

In a unanimous decision Friday, California’s seven Supreme Court Justices voted to prohibit state judges from belonging to the Boy Scouts on the grounds that the group’s policies discriminate according to sexual orientation. Having eliminated the exemption that protected nonprofit youth groups, the only remaining exemption is for members of religious organizations.  

While the Boy Scouts of America allows homosexual boys to be members, it prohibits homosexual adults to be leaders. The organization’s controversial policy has been under fire for years from LGBT and civil rights activists.  

Despite a 1996 California Supreme Court ruling which forbids participation in groups with discriminatory policies, the Boy Scouts had been exempted under the state’s nonprofit youth exemption. Under the direction of the Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on the Code of Judicial Ethics, and with the support of the California Judges Association, the court eliminated that nearly 20 year-old exemption Friday.

The Orange County Register notes that in February the ethics committee recommended the reversal to “enhance public confidence in the judiciary.” Now, the only remaining exemption is religious organizations:

“The only remaining exception to the general rule is membership in a religious organization,” said Fourth District Court of Appeal Justice Richard D. Fybel, chair of the Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on the Code of Judicial Ethics. “One other exception — belonging to a military organization — was eliminated as well, because the U.S. armed forces no longer restrict military service based on sexual orientation.”

Currently 47 states prohibit judges from membership in discriminatory groups, while only 22 include sexual orientation under its protected categories. Of those 22, California was the only one that provided an exemption for nonprofit youth groups. The rule change goes into effect Jan. 21, 2016.