On Wednesday, March 13, Equality California announced its legislative package for the 2013-14 legislative session. EQCA says (see entire press release below):
These bills will remove an unfair tax on same-sex couples with employer health insurance (AB 362, Ting), ease the requirements for gender identity name changes (AB 1121, Atkins), provide LGBT cultural competency training for health care providers (AB 496, Gordon), ensure that LGBT people are represented in data collection (SB 280, Lieu and Lara) and ensure that non-profit youth groups that receive state tax privileges comply with existing California anti-discrimination laws (SB 323, Lara).
Even with a pro-equality majority in the California Legislature, all the bills will require a push from the LGBT community - especially SB 323 by openly gay Assemblymember Ricardo Lara that would close a loophole that allows discriminatory youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America to get a tax exemption "for working in the public interest." EQCA Executive Director John O'Connor has set up an Action Alert for SB 323:
We know that discrimination isn't in the public interest. We know that being excluded has real costs for LGBT youth, and that the values that organizations like the Boy Scouts teach -- good citizenship, character and teamwork -- are just as important for our youth. So why should we give organizations that don't reflect our values a special exemption? Why should they get special rights?
Unfortunately, because this is a bill related to taxes, we need a two-thirds majority in the California legislature to pass it. Which means that we need every legislator to know that California won't reward excluding LGBT people. Please take a moment to contact your legislator, either using the letter below or by writing one of your own.
No doubt there will be a backlash since the Boy Scouts are involved.
But that private religious-based organization is now under attack nationally for their long history of proudly discriminating against gay scouts, leaders and den mothers. So SB 323 is, in effect, leading a larger trend to end youth abuse. Last year, despite intense pressure from the religious right and political conservatives who tout psychological abuse to try to change a young person's sexual orientation or gender identity, the Legislature passed and Gov. Brown signed SB 1172 - the first bill in the nation to ban this form of abuse, which heretofore had been considered "acceptable" as so-called "therapy" to "repair" LGBT people who don't need repairing.
Additionally, on Tuesday, Box Turtle Bulletin posted a piece noting that - while the IRS did not take a policy stand - contributors to groups that practice such abuse have:
Warren Throckmorton reports that the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) has had its tax exempt status revoked by the Internal Revenue Service after failing to file IRS-990 forms for the last three consecutive years. Throckmorton discovered the notice on the IRS web site, which truncates NARTH's name but identifies NARTH by its Employer Identification Number, which matches the number NARTH listed on its 2009 filing.....
By the way, good luck trying to figure out whether NARTH is a tax exempt organization. Its donation page is silent on the issue, but Throckmorton found this membership page which suggests donations are tax deductible.
"NARTH's work throughout the years has amounted to child abuse in every sense of the word," Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a press release. "Sadly, some therapists have looked to this discredited organization for guidance on treating their most vulnerable patients and this has had drastic results. The IRS is just the latest organization to take a death blow at NARTH."
"I can say firsthand these types of practices are dangerous and discredited," said Ryan Kendall, a former NARTH patient. "As a survivor, I look forward to the day when they no longer exist. The revocation of NARTH's tax exempt status demonstrates that we are ever closer to that day."
While the BSA is widely considered an organization that benefits youth, more and more people are finding the group's outright and proud antigay discrimination unacceptable and detrimental to the public interest - the designation that qualifies them for tax exempt status under California law and places BSA in direct conflict with the state's moral code and superseding law banning such discrimination.
EQCA press release:
Equality California is proud to announce its sponsorship of five bills in the 2013-14 legislative session focused on reducing discrimination and improving the health and equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians.
"This legislative package is broad and fundamental," said John O'Connor, EQCA executive director. "With these bills, we will end an unfair tax that singles out LGBT families, improve access to health care for our community and ensure that California taxpayers are not underwriting discrimination by youth-based organizations."
The Youth Equality Act (SB 323), authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara, would remove a special state tax exemption for youth organizations that fail to comply with California's longstanding public policy against discrimination. This bill will encourage organizations such as the Boy Scouts to end their exclusion of LGBT people from leadership and membership.
The Health Insurance Tax Parity Act (AB 362), authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting, exempts from state taxation additional income that employees may receive to to offset the federal income taxes they must pay when covering their domestic partner or same-sex spouse under an employer-provided health care plan. This inequity currently results from the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which does not recognize same-sex partners and spouses. Several employers in California, including Facebook, Google and the City and County of San Francisco, have stepped up to offset the cost for their LGBT employees, and this legislation would remove state tax liability for the value of such compensation.
The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Data Collection Act (SB 280), coauthored by Sen. Lara and Sen. Ted Lieu, will address one of the biggest barriers to effective health care for LGBT Californians -- the lack of accurate data on LGBT Californians means that too often, state services are allocated based on scant information about the size, geography and diversity of the LGBT population.
The LGBT Cultural Competency for Health Care Providers Act (AB 496), authored by Assemblymember Richard Gordon, works to improve health care delivery for LGBT people by increasing the cultural training of health care providers, such as doctors and dentists. Many LGBT people report delaying care or avoiding the health care system altogether due to lack of understanding of LGBT issues by their providers.
The Gender Identity: Name Changes and Birth/Death Certificates Act (AB 1121), authored by Assemblymember Toni Atkins, and cosponsored by the Transgender Law Center, simplifies the expensive and burdensome processes required to legally change a person's name and gender in California. The bill would remove the costly newspaper publication requirement for name changes that can be unaffordable for low-income transgender people and can put their privacy and safety at risk. In addition, the bill would protect the dignity of transgender Californians by ensuring that their gender identity is recognized and honored upon death.
"We are proud to work with five outstanding legislators this session," said O'Connor. "Together, we will continue to advance our mission of full equality for LGBT people and nothing less."
Links to the bills and fact sheets are available at eqca.org/legislation.