SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The California Supreme Court’s unanimous decision to prohibit state judges from belonging to the Boy Scouts and other youth groups that practice “invidious” discrimination against gays came against the wishes of some jurists with children who are Boy Scouts or who are active in Scouting themselves.
Several sitting judges wrote to oppose the new membership policy before the court approved it on Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
Among them was San Joaquin County Superior Court Barbara Kronlund, who said that as the mother of a Boy Scout the policy would be an “infringement of my right to free exercise of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment.” Riverside County Superior Court Judge John Vineyard commented that his being an Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster was in no way incompatible with serving on the bench.
“The involvement of judges in Scouting reflects well on the judiciary and supports a widely respected youth organization with a rich and unique place in American culture,” Vineyard said in written comments quoted by the Times.
The Boy Scouts of America started allowing openly gay boys to be Scouts last year, but does not permit gay adults to be leaders. California is one of 22 states where judges are not allowed to be members of groups and clubs that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, but until last week it had an exception for nonprofit youth groups that the Supreme Court said would end next January. The rule does not apply to religious organizations.
The court’s Advisory Committee on the Code of Judicial Ethics recommended in February eliminating the exception for youth groups to enhance public confidence in the judiciary. The Supreme Court invited comment on the recommendation before accepting it last week. The change was supported by the California Judges Association.
Permitting judges to participate in groups like the Boy Scouts “incites distrust in judicial impartiality, demeans gay and lesbian judges and is offensive and harmful,” Jim Humes, an openly gay appeals court judge in San Francisco, told the court.
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Julia Kelety told the Times that she does not support the Boy Scouts’ ban on gay leaders and hopes it is changed by January. Kelety has two teenage sons who are working to be Eagle Scouts and serves as a committee chair for their troop, support she would need to forego if the Scouts policy is not changed.
“I’m not convinced that the public is worried that judges will treat them unfairly because they are involved in the Boy Scouts,” she said. “I do wonder if other than a political angle, anyone has complained about a judge on a case because of an involvement in Boy Scouts.”