Lambda Prompts IRS to Tackle Anti-Gay Bias Among Agents

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Civil Rights Group Applauds Decision to Treat All Taxpayers with Fairness
July 31, 1998

(NEW YORK, July 31, 1998) -- Following scrutiny of anti-gay bias at the Internal Revenue Service, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said Friday that the agency has promised that its management will travel to IRS field offices throughout the country and train agents to provide fair treatment to groups supporting lesbians and gay men.

Lambda has been urging the IRS to take agency-wide action against anti-gay bias by its agents. In the past year, Lambda represented two lesbian and gay community organizations that initially were denied 501(c)(3) tax exempt status because of the gay-related missions.

"The IRS is taking a meaningful step by addressing anti-gay bias nationally, through training of all the field agents who first see and act upon applications from lesbian and gay groups for tax-exempt status." said Lambda Staff Attorney David Buckel, adding, "We'll keep hoping and pressing for other meaningful action throughout the entire agency."

IRS Director of the Exempt Organizations Division Marcus Owens, in a letter to Lambda dated July 23, 1998, said:

To ensure that the statement I made to you concerning the application of the law in a fair and nondiscriminatory manner is a reality, I along with other EP/EO [Employee Plan/Exempt Organizations] executives will be traveling to our field offices to speak with our agents about the need for professionalism, impartiality and fairness in their dealings with all taxpayers. To address concerns with bias, we will illustrate those concepts with examples that specifically address the issue of bias against groups that are supportive of gay men and lesbians.

The IRS director added that he was forwarding Lambda's request to Charles Fowler, national director of the agency's Office for Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity, who has responsibility for agency-wide policy and training concerning anti-discrimination, including sexual orientation issues.

In the past year, Lambda successfully challenged IRS negative responses to applications for tax-exempt status by Kathys' Group and the Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Support System (GLASS), which are all- volunteer, not-for-profit organizations. Kathys' Group provides support services for lesbians with cancer in Rhode Island while GLASS assists lesbian and gay youth in Greensboro, North Carolina. As a condition for tax-exempt status, the IRS had ordered Kathys' Group to expand its mission beyond the lesbian community and required GLASS to discourage the "development of homosexual attitudes and propensities by minor individuals."

Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Lambda is the nation's oldest and largest legal organization serving lesbians, gay men, and people with HIV and AIDS.


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