California’s judges may cut ties with Boy Scouts

Photo from Boy Scouts of America
Photo from Boy Scouts of America

There’s a firestorm among the usually reserved bunch of state judges. The California judiciary is considering a proposal that would make it an ethical violation for judges to formally associate with the Boy Scouts, because of that group’s ban on gay troop leaders.

The idea is that officers of the court must appear unbiased, so they should not look tolerant of discrimination.

But there are strong feelings on both sides. More than 650 people and groups weighed in on the measure. Some of the responses had dozens of signatories.

One judge accused the committee of imposing liberal “political correctness.” Others said it infringed on their rights of freedom of religion and association. San Diego County Superior Court Judge Julia Kelety said the proposal is misguided.

“The issue is whether individual judges can choose in their private lives to be involved in an organization that has tremendous qualities and provides tremendous support for young people,” Kelety said.

Like many judges, Kelety has deep ties to the group. Her brothers were scouts. Her dad was a scout leader. Her two 15-year old sons are scouts, and she’s the committee chairwoman of their troop.

“I wouldn’t let my kids be involved if I thought that it was sending hateful messages or creating bigots. It simply is not that. And there is nothing about my participation in the Boy Scouts or my sons that is demeaning to anyone,” Kelety said.

But others who weighed in said California judges should not abide discrimination. Robert Glusman is president of the California Judges Association, which represents 75 percent of active judges. After long discussions, the group came out in support of the measure.

“Would a judge be able to join an organization where black men could not be part of the organization? I don’t think that would be as close a question.” Glusman said.

“Here we are dealing with gay men or LGBT. So we put it in a slightly different framework. But we allow gay children to be members and we don’t allow gay adults to be members. And there is something that rankles many of the judges about that.”

At a recent flag ceremony for Boy Scouts, Rick Prime, leader of Troop 202 in Oakland, said he thought of the controversy.

“I understand that there’s people outside there that are impatient and can’t wait for change and I understand their anger, but I guess I believe in changing from within.”

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