06/28/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

On Boy Scouts Question, CA Chooses Equality

Earlier this month, the California Assembly Judiciary Committee, on a bi-partisan vote, defeated a resolution honoring the Boy Scouts of America on their 100th anniversary. The reason: the Boy Scouts' perpetual discrimination against participants and troop leaders who aren't heterosexual. Equality California testified at the hearing and submitted a letter in opposition to this resolution .

The bill's proponents knew that honoring the Boy Scouts in spite of their policy of discrimination would face opposition. Assemblymember Curt Hagman, the Diamond Bar Republican who authored the resolution, couldn't even bring himself to say why the bill didn't pass. He simply slammed the refusal of other committee members to pass the bill as "partisanship." But committee chair Mike Feuer and the other committee members who voted down the resolution were very clear that their decision was about equality and fairness towards LGBT people, who are protected under California's laws.

,Almost 3 million young men and boys participate in the Boy Scouts. Many of them are not heterosexual. Some are too young still to be aware of their sexual orientation. Those who may come out of the closet later in life are being taught by the organization to feel shame and those who are straight are learning that it is okay to discriminate.

Our youth, regardless of their sexual orientation, need to see positive images of LGBT people. They need to learn that LGBT people deserve, just like anyone else, to live lives free of prejudice, harassment and hate crimes. We need to help them grow up seeing that diversity makes our state stronger. Our youth need these lessons to be age-appropriate, and they need them when they are still young and forming their understanding of the world.

Hagman pointed out that the Boy Scouts are exemplary citizens who benefit society by delivering food to the needy, keeping the environment clean and performing community service. These are great actions indeed. But what does it mean when we tell LGBT youth that they do not deserve to be a part of an organization performing these services? It's as if we are telling them they are not a part of the community. This is a message we should never send to any of our young people, regardless of who they are. We should never tell our youth that they cannot and should not be a part of efforts to make society stronger. That is why we supported a resolution that very day honoring the Girl Scouts. Unlike the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts don't discriminate.

We've made some great progress in supporting LGBT youth here in California. We've passed bills that create uniform anti-discrimination codes for schools and created a day of recognition for Harvey Milk that helps educators to talk with their students about LGBT issues. This year we are sponsoring a bill that would make it easier for youth to access mental health services. We know all too well that many of our youth give in to the pressures of discrimination and take their own lives. We have to create a climate in which all youth can grow up safe and be who they are. All youth have a lot to contribute.

Equality California applauds Assemblymember Feuer for leading the committee in rejecting this resolution. We need to move forward together as one community, without leaving anyone behind.