IRS Grants Lesbian & Gay Youth Group Tax-Exempt Status
(NEW YORK, August 26, 1997) -- The Internal Revenue Service granted tax-exempt status to a gay youth support group that faced ominous anti-gay questions about "homosexual attitudes" when it first contacted the tax agency, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Tuesday.
"This is a wonderful and timely victory for lesbian and gay youth and their parents across the country just as a new school year starts," said David Buckel, Lambda staff attorney who filed a written appeal last month on behalf of the group, the Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Support System (GLASS), of Greensboro, North Carolina.
"Faced with cruel, at times dangerous, anti-gay attitudes in many communities and schools, gay youth desperately need the kind of support that groups like GLASS offer," Buckel said. "The federal government not only has admitted it made a mistake in its hostile response to GLASS, it also has signaled hope to the rest of the country about building such volunteer pro-gay efforts," he added.
GLASS was formed to meet the needs of young people facing anti-gay bigotry and abuse by providing support groups and educational resources. It is staffed entirely by volunteers and has served about 120 youth between the ages of 15 and 21 since it started in 1994.
The IRS, after Lambda contacted it last month, backed down on its earlier communication with GLASS, officially withdrawing a letter it sent after the group applied for 501 (c)(3) status. That letter had demanded assurances "that counsellors (sic) and participants do not encourage or facilitate homosexual practices or encourage the development of homosexual attitudes and propensities by minor individuals..."
Lambda filed its letter of complaint with the IRS on July 1. In withdrawing its initial response, the IRS acknowledged that Lambda was right in criticizing the agency's attempt to police the viewpoint of a group because it services gay youth.