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Calif. lawmakers mix scouting with sexual politics

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[April 20, 2010]  SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Minority Republican lawmakers sponsored a resolution this week honoring the 100-year anniversary of the Boy Scouts. This being California, the political equivalent of a school-yard brawl broke out.

Democrats ultimately killed the resolution after criticizing the Boy Scouts for excluding homosexuals. Predictably, Republicans became indignant and accused Democrats of defaming a cherished American institution.

It didn't end there.

Democrats had introduced a resolution of their own honoring the Girl Scouts and included language that noted the organization does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

That drew yet more indignation from Republicans, with one GOP lawmaker accusing Democrats of improperly introducing sexuality into what should have been innocent proclamations of support for the two iconic youth groups.

"I would love to honor the Girl Scouts," said Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Laguna Niguel. "I just don't understand why this chamber wants to sexualize children."


The Boy Scout brouhaha started in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. After Republicans introduced the anniversary resolution, some Democratic lawmakers equated the Boy Scouts' policy of excluding gays with racism.

"Were the policy of the Boy Scouts to be that we exclude all African-Americans or Asian-Americans or Latinos, or any minority group, I don't think there would be a single member of the Legislature that would commend them," the Judiciary Committee's chairman, Los Angeles Democrat Mike Feuer, said in an interview later.

The resolution died in committee, wounding Republicans.

The Republicans say they were further incensed when they asked the Democrats to remove the line in the Girl Scouts resolution that honored the organization's acceptance of any girl regardless of her sexual orientation. But the Girl Scouts resolution passed out of the committee unchanged.

"Equality for gays and lesbians shouldn't have to be an issue that's brought down to our children's level," said Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Diamond Bar, an Eagle Scout and author of the Boy Scouts resolution. "Political agendas at the Capitol got in the way of this."

Feuer said he was never asked to amend the Girl Scouts resolution, calling the Republican claims "utterly false."

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The Girl Scouts resolution advanced Thursday to the Assembly floor, where the partisan sniping continued.

When it was time for the Assembly to vote, Assembly Majority Leader Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, asked members for a simple voice vote, the typical way to approve resolutions.

But after it passed on the voice vote, Assemblywoman Lori Saldana, a San Diego Democrat who authored the Girl Scouts resolution, asked for an additional roll call vote. That meant each lawmaker's vote would be a matter of record.

Republicans, of course, objected. Hagman said GOP lawmakers wanted to commend the Girl Scouts but did not want be on the record condoning their stance on sexual orientation. The resolution passed the 80-member house 48-4, with most Republicans abstaining.

Girl Scouts of America spokeswoman Michelle Tompkins said the organization was pleased with the honor given by California lawmakers and proud of its long tradition of including anyone.

In the end, California honored the Girl Scouts but not the Boy Scouts -- which issued a statement saying it appreciated the effort.

"This is a long-standing societal issue," Boy Scouts spokesman Deron Smith said regarding the group's membership policies.

The Girl Scouts resolution will now be taken up in the Senate.

[Associated Press; By CATHY BUSSEWITZ]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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