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The California Supreme Court thrilled rights activists Thursday by announcing that it plans to conduct further study on a proposal to prevent the state’s judges from belonging to groups — such as the Boy Scouts of America — that discriminate against gays. In a short statement, the high court said that during Wednesday’s weekly administrative conference, the seven justices “discussed at length” proposals submitted by groups such as the Bar Association of San Francisco and the Los Angeles County Bar Association. “The court had an extensive discussion about this matter,” Chief Justice Ronald George said in the statement, “and has decided to take up the matter at a future administrative conference after it undertakes a further study of the proposals.” In recent months, former BASF President Angela Bradstreet had beaten the drum for changes in the state’s judicial canons to make it clear whether judges could belong to the Boy Scouts. While the ethics canons clearly prohibit participation in discriminatory groups, they make an exception for “nonprofit youth organizations” such as the Boy Scouts. San Francisco’s judges voted recently to distance themselves from such groups, and the Santa Clara County Bar Association has sided with BASF. Last week, the L.A. County bar sent a letter to George asking specifically that the exemption for youth organizations be lifted, coinciding to the day that Bradstreet, BASF Executive Director Teveia Barnes and current BASF President Jeffrey Bleich were meeting with the chief justice. On Thursday, Barnes called the court’s announcement “wonderful news. The fact that the court took the step to review it at least sends a message to [members of] the gay and lesbian community that they are valued.” Bleich, who became president Dec. 13, said Thursday that the court’s decision “reflects the fact that the Supreme Court appreciates the importance of this issue, particularly the importance of having litigants before the courts worrying about the appearance of fairness.” Miriam Krinsky, president of the L.A. County bar, called the announcement a “positive step.” “Recent events, including actions of two county bar associations to adopt different policies, and the Judicial Council’s report reflecting significant perceptions of bias,” she said, “suggest that this is an issue that warrants the court’s consideration anew.” Supreme Court spokeswoman Lynn Holton said the Supreme Court itself would be studying the issue. “They are not at this time,” she said, “directing it to any outside group.” Activists’ impetus for change comes from the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2000 ruling in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640, which said the group has a constitutional right to discriminate based on sexual orientation.

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