IRS Again Backs Down on Anti-Gay Discrimination

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Lambda wins tax-exempt status for support group for lesbians with cancer
May 5, 1998

(NEW YORK, May 5, 1998) Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Tuesday that its victory on behalf of a lesbian organization seeking tax-exempt status marked the second time in recent months the IRS has had to back down on its efforts to interfere with the mission of a gay community group.

Lambda learned in a letter received Monday that, in response to its April 14 complaint, the Internal Revenue Service was granting tax-exempt status to Kathys' Group, a volunteer organization in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. The IRS granted the application upon withdrawing its earlier demand that the group alter its lesbian-focused mission and add "all women" to its target population.

Lambda Staff Attorney David Buckel said, "We're extemely happy that once again the IRS has moved to counter anti-gay bias within its ranks and withdrawn a demand which would have undermined support for lesbians fighting cancer."

He noted that Lambda had to intervene last summer on behalf of a lesbian and gay youth group also denied tax-exempt status when the IRS tried to revise that group's mission. Lambda's action caused the IRS to withdraw its requirement that the North Carolina-based Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Support System, or GLASS, prove it would not promote "homosexual attitudes" as a precondition to obtaining tax exemption.

Kathys' Group is named after two lesbian partners of 25 years, both named Kathy, one of whom developed breast cancer. Responding to the high incidence of cancer among lesbians and anti-gay bias encountered in the medical profession, the group provides information to lesbians with cancer and their families, and runs bi-monthly support groups.

"The IRS nearly thwarted these important groups -- each had considered giving up on tax-exempt status and important financial support in the face of this powerful agency's opposition," said Buckel, who worked on behalf of Kathys' Group and GLASS in their efforts to secure 501(c)(3) status which allows them to solicit tax-exempt donations.

"This is good news for a crucial, volunteer effort," said Mary Bonauto, civil rights director for the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, which serves New England states. "With the benefit of tax-exempt status -- which organizations as worthy as Kathys' Group should have without discrimination -- these women can get on with their important work in Rhode Island of helping lesbians with cancer," she said.

Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank also has criticized the IRS for its treatment of Kathys' Group and GLASS.

In both the GLASS and Kathys' Group cases, Lambda urged the IRS to take agency-wide corrective action to eradicate anti-gay bias. Lambda plans to approach the agency about internal education and policy change so that these anti-gay actions do not continue.


Contact: Peg Byron 212-809-8585, ext 230; 888-987-1984 pager; David Buckel 212-809-8585


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