Boy Scouts Risk Losing Tax-Exempt Status

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May 30, 2013; The San Luis Obispo Tribune

A couple of weeks ago, the Boy Scouts of America’s national council approved a resolution that lifted the organization’s ban on gay youth while keeping in place its ban on gay adult leaders. Some lauded this development as a step in the right direction, while others, including California lawmakers, thought it was not a big enough step. Last Wednesday, California’s Senate voted to end tax breaks for the Boy Scouts and any other youth group that discriminates based on sexual orientation or gender identity. SB 323, dubbed “The Youth Equality Act,” amends the state’s tax code and revokes exemptions on state sales, use and corporate taxes.

“While the Boy Scouts of America took a step in the right direction to include LGBT youth, the standing ban on LGBT adults is premised on absurd assumptions and stereotypes that perpetuate homophobia and ignorance,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara, a co-sponsor of the bill. “Equality doesn’t come with an expiration date and we shouldn’t allow discrimination to be subsidized; not in our state, not on our dime.” He argues that this is “out of line with the values of California” and SB 323 aligns laws with Californian values.

The Boy Scouts has yet to release a comment on the Senate vote, but during preliminary committee hearings, a former president expressed his concern. “You’re talking about taxing revenue that is important, especially to the local scouts,” said Rick Cronk. Some critics questioned the constitutionality of the bill. Supporters countered, however, that churches which charter scout troops would not be affected, while the statute would send an unequivocal message about equality. Faith-based groups sponsor about 70 percent of scout troops nationwide.

The Boy Scouts took a tentative step towards progress, but the compromise position on gays was not enough for many. Polls reveal that a majority of Americans support the organization’s decision to end the ban on gay youth but oppose the continued exclusion of gay adults. A similar bill has been introduced in the New York Senate, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if other states follow suit. This is clearly an instance when compromise is not politic.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire.

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Landmark Study Highlights Challenges of LGBT Youth in U.S.

June 7, 2012; Source: The Advocate

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy group, recently released the findings of its of groundbreaking survey of 10,000 LGBT youth.

While the report, “Growing Up LGBT in America,” contained no real surprises, some of the statistics it presented are nonetheless alarming. Only 37 percent of LGBT-identified youth say that they are happy, compared to 67 percent of straight kids. Four in ten say the community they live in is not accepting of LGBT people. Nine in ten say they hear negative messages about being LGBT, mostly from school, the Internet, and their peers. The LGBT respondents are twice as likely as their peers to say that they have been physically assaulted, kicked, or shoved at school.

However, LGBT youth are hopeful, as a vast majority believes that things will get better and that they will one day be happy. Nine in ten say they are out to their close friends and six in ten say they are out to their classmates. Three-quarters say most of their peers do not have a problem with their gender orientation and identity.

“No one would say that growing up LGBT is easy, but this survey is a stark wake-up call to the daily toll that discrimination takes on vulnerable young people,” HRC’s president Chad Griffin said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to change that, because we know all too well that there are real life consequences to inaction.”

Indeed, a study of lesbian, gay and bisexual teens published in Pediatrics last year revealed that they are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. Living in a supportive community, however, can make a difference. Families and communities of youth who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender need to accept the fact that their children do not choose to be different. We are born that way and, truly, it will all be okay.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, June 11, 2012.

Bloomberg’s Proposed NYC Budget Sparks Homeless Youth Shelter Campaign

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May 4, 2012; Source: The Advocate

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s executive budget, released late last week, might achieve a balanced budget sans tax increases but, some nonprofit advocates say it will make less funding available to programs and services relied upon by Gotham’s neediest, including many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) homeless teens.

LGBT and youth advocates object to a proposed $7 million cut to the city’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Services, a cut that could result in the elimination of 160 youth shelter beds including those at the Ali Forney Center, New York’s sole LGBT shelter.

“Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to throw 160 homeless children out of their shelter beds and into the streets is cruel, reckless, and contemptible,” Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center, told the Advocate. “These cuts create an even bigger crisis for the LGBT teens who are thrown out of their homes and forced to endure homelessness on the streets of our city.”

The Ali Forney Center’s website highlights the unique plight of LGBT youth. As more LGBT teens find the courage to come out of the closet, “as many as 25% of these teens are rejected by their families, and many end up homeless on the streets. Homeless LGBT teens are more likely than straight homeless teens to be subjected to violence on the streets, and in the homeless shelter system. They suffer from inordinate rates of mental illness, trauma, HIV infection and substance abuse.”

The organization estimates 4,000 homeless youth roam the streets of New York and only 250 shelter beds are available. Siciliano adds that more and more youth shelter beds are needed. Last year, the waiting list for the center grew by as much as 40 percent. Siciliano vows to fight the proposed budget cuts, saying, “The Ali Forney Center and all those who work with and care about LGBT homeless youth will not be silent in the face of this decision, which offends us as a community and needlessly puts our young people in harm’s way.”

The center, in tandem with other LGBT organizations, has launched the Campaign for Youth Shelter, which urges city and state leaders to come up with adequate funding for youth shelters in New York. The mayor’s plan is not set in stone. Bloomberg must come to an agreement with the City Council on a final version of the city budget by the end of June.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, May 8, 2012.

Scholarship Fund for the Model Minority

July 14, 2011; Source: Asian Journal Most Americans share the image of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) students as model minorities, bespectacled nerds who can solve complex math problems while simultaneously playing the violin. A report by the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education points out that this dominant portrait of AAPI students has been “heavily influenced by stereotypes and false perceptions, rather than empirical evidence.”

The reality is that not all AAPI students are cut from the same mold. The AAPI population in the U.S. is a rather heterogeneous lot. According to the Census Bureau, it is composed of 48 different ethnic groups from the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and the Pacific Islands. Asian Pacific American Islanders speak hundreds of languages and dialects, practice various religions and come from all socioeconomic groups. Not all AAPI students make it to Ivy League colleges or concert halls.

The Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), acknowledging the reality that many AAPI students come from families that live at or below the poverty level, is awarding $1.2 million in scholarships to more than 500 deserving AAPI students for the upcoming academic school year.

APIASF is the nation’s largest nonprofit devoted solely to providing college scholarships for AAPI youth. It was founded to meet an urgent need in the AAPI community, which has been disadvantaged by its model minority status. The organization’s website sheds light on the little known fact that many AAPI groups have educational levels below the national average. The fund awards anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 to high school and college students, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college.

Originally posted on Nonprofit Quarterly Nonprofit Newswire, July 18, 2011.