Saturday, January 24, 2015

California Judges Barred from Boy Scouts

It has been common for quite some time for state and local judges to resign memberships from discriminatory organizations - e.g., one former law partner almost left a club that barred blacks when he was named to a federal court seat until the club changed its policy - on the theory that a judge cannot be seen as unbiased in court cases if he/she belongs to a club or organization that discriminates against blacks, those who are Jewish and more recently gays.  Now, the California Supreme Court has ruled that California state judges cannot belong to the Boys Scouts due to the organization's continued anti-gay policies.  Here are highlights from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The state Supreme Court has voted to prohibit judges in California from belonging to the Boy Scouts because the 2.7 million-member youth organization bars gays and lesbians from becoming troop leaders.

The court announced Friday that its seven justices had voted unanimously to accept a February 2014 recommendation from its ethics advisory committee to ban Boy Scout membership. As of Wednesday, judges affiliated with the Scouts were in violation of the state Code of Judicial Ethics, which the court oversees, and could face removal from office.

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.
“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.”

[T]he California Judges Association, which represents 1,575 of the state’s 2,000 judges, supported the ban.

The new rules would still allow judges to belong to religious organizations whose beliefs or practices were discriminatory. Many Boy Scout troops are affiliated with churches, and Fybel, the committee chairman, said some judges have argued that their troop was a religious organization that should remain exempted.

The Boy Scouts could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

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 in the past because of the exemption for nonprofit youth groups.

Other State Supreme courts should follow suit, but don't expect any such action from Virginia Supreme Court - which in my opinion is the anti-gay - any time soon. 

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