Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Julie Novkov (Chair, Sexuality and Politics) to Council, 3/28/2008

Members of the Council
American Political Science Association
1527 New Hampshire Ave
NW Washington, DC 20036-1206

March 28, 2008

Dear members of the APSA Council:

I am writing in my capacity as the first president of the Sexuality and Politics Section of the APSA to express my deep concern about the controversy over siting APSA's annual convention in New Orleans in 2012. APSA 2012 will be only the fourth convention at which our Section will be organizing panels and conducting a full slate of Section-related activities. I am confident that our Section will be firmly established by then, but as a relatively new Section, we face challenges and vulnerabilities that Sections with lengthier histories do not. Already, I can anticipate that this controversy will become entangled with the early history of the Sexuality and Politics Section, and I worry about the implications for the Section and for the study of sexuality and politics within the discipline more generally. I urge the Council 1) to take the necessary time to consider the full complexity of these issues, even if it requires waiting until its next meeting in Boston to make any decisions, 2) ultimately to adopt a policy that recognizes the interests of LGBT members of the APSA in being able to attend meetings without putting their family ties at risk or facing denigration of their families as families, 3) to decide not to go to New Orleans, and 4) if siting in New Orleans is not to be changed, to develop a comprehensive and concrete plan for accommodating individuals, groups, and organized Sections that will face difficult and painful choices about how to manage the meeting. In all the discussions of this issue I have seen and in which I have participated, I think Joan Tronto has said it best in her recent email to the Caucus listserv: "the bright line through the decisions to site our meetings has to be that when people's rights are in jeopardy, no amount of other factors can compensate for that threat."

Many participants in the Sexuality and Politics Section are themselves members of the LGBT community. Most others are strong allies of this community. The LGBT Caucus, as you know, has been discussing both the question of how siting decisions should address the existence of state-level bans on same-sex marriage and the incidences of it, and the specific issue of New Orleans. The Caucus discussions have revealed a range of opinions on both siting and New Orleans. Nonetheless, many Caucus members are unwilling to attend an annual convention sited in New Orleans if the policy does not change before 2012. They have noted that not only did Louisiana adopt a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and incidences thereof almost a year prior to Hurricane Katrina, but also that New Orleans residents voted in favor of the ban. And a substantial number of Caucus members would like to see the APSA adopt a formal policy on siting to address discrimination against same-sex couples, following the precedents of the ERA and the MLK, Jr. holiday controversies. I understand that a proposal to do so is now on the table.

While you have received significant feedback from Caucus members opposing holding APSA 2012 in New Orleans, I recognize that the dimension of sexuality in New Orleans has more complicated depths. As Gary Segura has pointed out on the Race and Politics blog, New Orleans has a rich tradition of embracing both racial diversity and out members of the LGBT community. In fact, New Orleans' Southern Decadence celebration, billed as a "celebration of gay life, music, and culture," traditionally takes place the same weekend as the APSA annual meeting and presumably would be observing its 40th anniversary during APSA 2012. This apparent irony places those who support LGBT equality in the difficult analytic situation of trying to sort out what equality rights mean and in particular what same-sex marriage means. Following Carl Stychin, I am troubled by the political use of same-sex marriage to separate "good gays" (who are the same as upstanding middle-class monogamous heterosexual couples in every regard except for the gender of their partners) from "bad queers" (who are sexual and cultural transgressors in need of social and legal disciplining). Despite this tension, however, I urge APSA to take seriously the clear voices of many APSA members who see Louisiana as an unsafe place for them and their families. Further, I see the message of denigration implied in the Louisiana amendment as more than just a bar to same-sex couples' access to middle-class respectability. It actively defines the family as a heteronormative institution and deeply disrespects all same-sex intimate relationships. It also places these families and their members at concrete risk in the event of unexpected emergenices.

Many members of the Section, however, are also invested as scholars and critics in the politics of race. As a scholar of both race and sexuality, I personally recognize that going to New Orleans for our annual meeting could be a political and economic act supporting the rebuilding of a city with a long and proud African American history. I felt this potential tension when, as a member of the LGBT Status Committee, I first began to participate in discussions about siting before Hurricane Katrina struck. At that point, I and others could relatively easily conclude that New Orleans, despite its racial history, was a problematic site due to the passage of the same-sex marriage amendment (which passed in Orleans Parish by a margin of 54.6% to 43.4%). Katrina, however, laid bare the deep connections between racial and class bias on the one hand and the disingenuousness of pleas of state incapacity and failed responses on the other. These connections have remained clear, extending from the moment of the crisis to the present day, and call for critical intervention. Where we site our annual meetings matters both politically and economically, due to the financial benefits that our increasingly large conventions bring into a city and the potential for critical political engagement afforded by the conference itself. Considered from this perspective, for APSA to abandon New Orleans would seem to place some members' interests in racial and class-based justice in tension with other members' interests in equality. And siting in New Orleans could provide an unparalleled opportunity to focus our scholarly attention on broad and intersectional concrete questions of justice and the duties of states to their denizens, which will surely remain on the table in 2012.

This dimension, however, is not as clear as it might appear at first glance. While at the Western meetings, I heard from an old friend about the settlement of a fair housing lawsuit against St. Bernard's Parish, which had passed an ordinance requiring city "council approval for owners to rent homes to anyone who was not a blood relative." Fair housing advocates charged that, due to the racial makeup of the parish, the ordinance would largely have barred people of color from renting there. In a report published two years after Katrina, the Institute for Southern Studies further criticizes reconstruction efforts that have focused heavily on homeowners to the detriment of renters and that have aimed to tear down and replace undamaged public housing with mixed-income housing. This raises for me, and I hope for others, very serious questions about what is being reconstructed in New Orleans, and what kind of city will await the arrival of approximately 7000 political scientists in 2012. Spending tourist dollars to boost a multicultural and multiracial New Orleans in the process of remaking itself from within is a very different proposition from supporting a recreated, sanitized, and whitened New Orleans theme park.

My point here is that we need to study and think through the question of New Orleans more. I believe that APSA should not go to New Orleans. But if APSA is to go to New Orleans, the council must develop concrete plans to address the concerns of its members about the location, and, I would argue, should take advantage of the opportunity to consider the site itself critically and productively through a scholarly lens.
On the siting question generally, I would simply second the observations that have been passed along to the Council by LGBT Caucus members and allies. In the past, APSA has not feared taking a stance on coercive anti-labor policies, the passage of a holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. I acknowledge that barring the siting of our annual meetings in locations that have adopted bans on same-sex marriage and its incidents will not eliminate discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered folks. Nor did APSA expect to achieve full equality for women by refusing to go to Chicago when Illinois had rejected the ERA, or to achieve complete racial justice by tying siting practices to state stances on the MLK, Jr. holiday. It may not be our duty as an association to change the world, but it is incumbent upon us not to stand silent in the face of injustice. Further, as an association, we owe it to our members not to place them in the impossible position of having to choose between safety and professional advancement.

Finally, I urge the Council to take seriously the challenge of managing a meeting in New Orleans and recognize what it is facing. The first step in this process is to continue to improve communications between the Council and APSA leadership and the members and member organizations interested in this issue. In my discussions with members of the Caucus, the Sexuality and Politics Section, and the LGBT Status Committee in the last few months, I have gotten a strong sense that many people do not feel like they know what is going on, what kinds of things are being considered, or even what decisions are on the table. I also strongly recommend that APSA devote some space in an issue of PS to a full discussion of the complexities of the issues from a range of perspectives, which will enable the broader membership of the association to understand better why the siting question is so significant - and painful - for some members. Next, if the meeting is held in New Orleans, I wish to register now my request as head of Sexuality and Politics that counts for our panel proposals for the 2012 meeting and for panel attendance at the 2012 not be considered in determining panel allocations for the 2013 meeting. Siting in New Orleans will have a disproportionately negative impact on the Sexuality and Politics Section. I further request that APSA provide additional support in the coming years to the LGBT Status Committee so that the Status Committee and APSA can do the necessary work of connecting with local LGBT organizations and researching New Orleans' queer friendly hospitals, insurance agents, and attorneys versed in LGBT issues and choice of law issues. I also ask that APSA extend the accommodation period for Sexuality and Politics as a new Section, as this controversy's impact on our efforts to build up and institutionalize are at this point quite difficult to predict. I am sure that the Section chairs who follow me will have other specific requests to try to contain the damage that this issue may do to our Section.

I do not want to have to decide whether to go to New Orleans in 2012. But if I do face that decision, I will do so by trying to imagine an APSA meeting without Ken Sherrill, Joan Tronto, Harry Hirsch, Martha Ackelsberg, Ellen Andersen, and many other well known and not so well known voices that have been vitally important to me as a scholar, a teacher, and a member of the profession for many years. That conference, stripped of so many critical and political voices, would not represent the American Political Science Association for me. I hope that conference does not happen.


Julie Novkov
President, Sexuality and Politics

Joan Tronto (Former Head of APSA Annual Meeting Review Committee) to Caucus, 3/21/2008

Dear Harry and Wendy, and Colleagues,

Actually I find some value in the complex policy that the Council is now considering, and hope that it will guide APSA's future decisions about siting meetings. As you know, I have thought about this question for a good long time. Here is what I have concluded: the bright line through the decisions to site our meetings has to be that when people's rights are in jeopardy, no amount of other factors can compensate for that threat.

After all is said and done, the proper decision is to move the 2012 meeting out of New Orleans.

The people of the State of Louisiana has taken an extraordinarily hostile act towards those who are gays and lesbians. No one has challenged the legality of this action, and as you have pointed out, any such challenge is not likely to be resolved by the time the meeting is held. We can no longer hope that this situation will resolve in a way in which this hostility will disappear, as much as we might want to maneuver around it.

The Annual Meeting should never be held in a place where members have to decide whether to attend a professional meeting or follow their deepest convictions, and the Association should not place its members in such a situation. That is why we moved the meeting from San Francisco in the face of labor action there. From the standpoint of the Association, the annual meeting includes the largest group of Association members as participants of any of its activities, and in many ways, defines what the APSA is. As you point out, it will not be good to have a divisive issue in which the Association seems to be ignoring the concerns for safety, integrity and basic respect of some of its members.


Joan Tronto

Harry Hirsch and Wendy Brown to the APSA Council, 3/19/2008

Dear Council colleagues:

Below please find our analysis of the conference siting issue and its impact on the Association's LGBT members. We appreciate that the draft circulated by Michael represents substantial thought and work related to meeting the competing concerns about APSA convention siting, triggered by the New Orleans issue. We have no wish to subvert this process, but rather to contribute to it. While we are respectful of the effort of the new draft policy to find a compromise on this question, in our view that proposal is overly complex and contains loopholes that permit the violation of basic tenets of equality, safety, and respect for all APSA members. We believe a simple, principled decision rule is available to us.

Many of our concerns echo those of the LGBT Status Committee.

Wendy Brown
Harry Hirsch

An LGBT political scientist has a partner, with whom she has executed a civil union in Vermont. Another couple, gay men, have married in Canada. A third has married in Massachusetts. None of the couples has executed a private contract, since they believe all relevant matters to be settled by their civil union or marriage, and since they see no reason why they should go to the trouble and expense of executing a private contract to enforce rights now granted them, by law, in their state or province.

The political scientist goes to New Orleans and is taken ill. His or her partner shows up at the hospital, and is told only immediate family members are allowed to see the patient or speak to the doctor.

Unlikely? Yes. Possible? Yes. Louisiana and several other states have not "merely" outlawed gay marriage; they have passed laws or made a part of their state constitutions the provision that the state will not recognize a same-sex relationship bearing any "incident" of marriage. As political scientists, we should recognize the seriousness and scope of these provisions, and recognize that they go significantly farther than most of the state constitutional amendments and statutes adopted in the wake of the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts.

We want to be clear on this point. The problem on the table is not in states that have said, "we will not perform same sex marriages." The problem is in those states which have said "we will not perform same sex marriages, AND we will not recognize any relationship looking like a same sex marriage from another jurisdiction." Whether or not the hospital scenario (or its equivalent at a police station) has yet materialized, its possibility has made some LGBT members of the profession feel they cannot safely travel to New Orleans in 2012. Based on the plain wording of these legal provisions, this is a reasonable fear. Moreover, whether or not one approves of recent efforts to publicize the issue, those doing so have posed a fair question: If the year were 1959, would we hesitate to act if the issue were recently passed miscegenation laws, and our attention were drawn to the issue by even one or two political scientists married to someone of a different race?

The LGBT Status Committee first raised the issue of convention sites in the early and mid nineties; one of us (HH) was chair of the Committee during some of that time. During that discussion, Executive Director Cathy Rudder articulated a principle to which all parties agreed: Every member of the profession should feel safe attending the annual meeting. Cathy also assured us that future siting decisions could and would be made with this principle in mind.

We respectfully suggest that we stick to this principle. We do not yet know how the amendment to the Louisiana constitution--or any of these other laws and amendments--will be interpreted on the ground; it will take many years for legal test cases to arise and be litigated. We should not be willing to take a chance with the legal rights of our colleagues in the meantime, and we should not want the inevitable legal test case to involve a political scientist caught in an traumatic incident.

While we recognize the complexity of siting decisions and the importance of helping the victims of Katrina, there are many other ways of accomplishing that goal. It is a false dichotomy to suggest that we face here a zero-sum choice of which minority group to support. And it is vital that we keep in mind that we are not being asked here to support a cause in any abstract sense; we are being asked to guarantee the safety of our colleagues.

We therefore propose as our decision rule the following:

The APSA will not hold conferences in any state which, by law, refuses to recognize a marriage or civil union legally recognized in another jurisdiction.

Two alternatives have been suggested.

The first is to have the Association find and publicize gay-friendly medical venues in New Orleans (or in other cities similarly situated), a process, we are told, already begun by the APSA staff.

The idea that we could somehow assure that anyone needing medical care would be taken to those facilities, and only those facilities (or perhaps to gay-friendly police stations?) strains credulity to the breaking point. Moreover, the very exercise of identifying such venues is deeply offensive, and proof that we should not be meeting in these cities; it is an admission that there is a problem, and a serious one. Will we pass out medical-ID bracelets saying "take only to Tulane hospital"? Pink triangles on our convention badges, perhaps?

The second suggested alternative is for the Association to urge LGBT members of the profession to execute private contracts and powers of attorney, designating their partners as next of kin. Apart from the extra expense involved for those already legally married or registered--an expense heterosexuals need not encounter--are we really willing to say to some of our colleagues, "well, if you are worried about your status in New Orleans, just be sure to carry identity papers with you at all times"? That, in effect, is what we will be saying. We will also be assuming, on the basis of very little (other than visitors' bureaus PR), that local authorities will
honor such documents, which the plain words of these state laws now strongly suggest they cannot.

Both of these alternatives signify second-class citizenship.

As our colleague Michael Goodhart cogently argues, our existing contract for New Orleans allows us to cancel the 2012 meeting (http://www.du.edu/gsis/hrhw/roundtable/2008/01-2008/specialforum/goodhart-2008sf.html). We urge the Council to adopt the obvious logic of his argument.

There are two additional factors to consider.

If we adopt the draft policy, we will not emerge from this morass; we will be forced to make finely-grained exceptions about different cities, on the basis of our fuzzy impressions of each city's reputation as "welcoming." And if we go to New Orleans in 2012, there will be a boycott, with all of the attendant publicity (as our email in the Fall from Association members clearly indicated). Such a boycott would neither be good for the Association as an entity nor for individual members. Worse, it has the potential to cast LGBT faculty in vulnerable and awkward positions within their departments and professional networks.

Jerry Thomas to Caucus, 3/18/2008

First, thank you for so thoroughly framing this issue for us.

My comments are general. First, I want to iterate my support for developing objective criteria without consideration of New Orleans. Second, I am in favor of this plan allowing exceptions for cities in restrictive states that demonstrate "substantial" LGBT support. I further favor outlining broad parameters to define "substantial" but also generally favor allowing site selection committee discretion in applying these parameters, subject to appeal and review within existing APSA structures (whatever this might be). Otherwise, I fear we will continue to be bogged down in the details and cripple decision-making authority.

Broad parameters could include a laundry list of pro-LGBT policies. As a pragmatic matter, if cities in restrictive states want to be considered for site selection, could we not ask those cities to demonstrate their pro-LGBT initiatives as part of the application process and to demonstrate which of the pro LGBT policies from the laundry list they have in place? With this approach, the site selection committee can then evaluate which cities offer "substantial" support relative to others.

I would hope LGBT members have a voice in the site selection process (along with other minority groups who may have site selection criteria created for their benefit). Understanding, I am a new member to this group and am generally optimistically trustful that site selection committees will fairly consider the interests of LGBT and all members. If there is significant (and recent) history of this not being the case, I am happy to defer to the opinions of more experienced members of the group.


Don Rosenthal (Chair of LGBT Status Committee) to Caucus, 3/18/2008

To: Association Members
From: Don Rosenthal,
Chair, LGBT Status Committee

After several delays, the APSA President and Council appear to be close to making decisions on the siting issues that the Status Committee has been raising since 2005. In that connection, the Status Committee is sponsoring an informal meeting this weekend at the Western Political Science Association conference in San Diego to discuss where matters stand. If you are planning to attend, PLEASE join us at the session which is scheduled to be held in WINDSOR C at the Manchester Grand Hilton at 10 AM on Saturday, the 22nd, following the last Sexuality and Politics Panel.

This meeting is designed as an open and frank discussion so that the Status Committee can be guided by your thoughts in the process of pressing for action in the next few weeks. For that reason, we have asked President Dianne Pinderhughes and Executive Director Michael Brintnall -- both of whom will be attending the meetings and have also offered to participate -- to NOT attend the session. However, I have also asked them to make themselves available for conversations with LGBT and LGBT-friendly allies who wish to talk with them during the meetings. Interestingly enough, President Pinderhughes is scheduled to deliver the keynote address on Thursday at noon entitled, "Dimensions of Representation." If you can do so, please attend that address and let us know how our her comments square with the approach APSA has taken with regard to the siting matters.

For those of you who have not followed the issues closely, I am appending a letter I sent to APSA leadership back in July 2007. Some of you may be more familiar with the events described than I am but it is intended to provide some background to those who are not and also to refresh the memories of others who have followed all of part of the events discussed. It also intended to trigger further comments on these matters from those who will not be at the Western meetings (either on the listserv or to me personally at dbrosenthal@bellsouth.net

From the outset, the two major issues that the Committee has been raising for some time have been: 1) the adoption of a new general formula that places primary weight in site selection on the passage of state amendments that are not only against same sex marriage but contain language which also may bar state and local domestic partnership arrangements and civil unions; 2) the decision whether or not to relocate the national meeting contracted for New Orleans in 2012 despite an onerous state constitutional amendment passed in 2004 by Louisiana which also included a majority of voters in New Orleans who supported that amendment).

To this list, I should also add a third proposal put forward by Executive Director Michael Brintnall. Michael prepared a draft statement that he circulated to the Status Committee before the meeting the Committee held in the Washington office of APSA on February 11th. In that proposal, he provided support to a state-level general formula but included a section that outlined "exceptions" to that strict interpretation of the general formula. That addition has raised important issues among members of the Committee and others with whom we have consulted.

Finally, as we have recommended, the final decision on New Orleans appears to have been put on hold until these other matters are sorted out.

Don Rosenthal (Chair of LGBT Status Committee), 7/12/2007

July 12, 2007

To: President Robert Axelrod

President-Elect Dianne Pinderhughes

Executive Director Michael Brintnall

From: Donald B. Rosenthal

Chair, Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and the Transgendered

I am writing on behalf of the Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and the Transgendered (LGBT) in the Profession. We are resubmitting to the Council two resolutions from 2005 that address issues of LGBT discrimination in choosing sites for APSA meetings. These resolutions were originally submitted to the APSA Council two years ago but have not been acted upon by the Council during the period while issues they raise were being considered by the Council-appointed Annual Meeting Review Committee (AMRC). In its recently issued report, that Committee recommended that the Council address the policy issues involved. We urge that the Council act on the resolutions at its next meeting in Chicago.

Because of the time that has passed since the resolutions were orginally circulated, some current Council members may be unfamiliar with the history of events leading to this request. For that reason, I have appended a set of documents related to the evolution of this discussion and the rationale for the proposals. I will touch on some of these matters in this cover letter.

The two resolutions arose out of a discussion that took place at a Status Committee meeting held at the Western Political Science Association meetings in Oakland, California on March 17, 2005. In addition to members of the Status Committee, APSA President Margaret Levi and Michael Brintnall, Executive Director, participated in the meeting.

In the course of a wide-ranging discussion that addressed a number of issues of concern to members of the Committee, one of the possibilities touched on was APSA going on record to oppose holding annual meetings in states that had passed constitutional amendments or state legislation barring access to marriage for lesbians and gay men. That discussion reflected, in part, a reaction by Committee members to passage of constitutional amendments in a number of states in the elections of 2004. Members of the Committee were particularly concerned about the possibility of APSA awarding an Annual Meeting to New Orleans in 2012. (Louisana was one of the states that had just passed a particularly punitive anti-LGBT marriage amendment.)

President Levi and Executive Director Brintnall pointed out that the Association had recently recommitted itself to not “making political statements” as an organization. Nonetheless, according to the Minutes of the meeting, President Levi conceded that the Association had in the past supported the Equal Rights Amendment and she went on to comment, "The same could be done with the question of not allowing our conventions to be held in places where gay marriage is not allowed. Another approach would be not to negotiate contracts with hotels regarding labor (union neutral; living wage standard) issues." (See APSA Council Minutes, 2005a, p. 7)

Further discussion within the Committee led to a proposal that called upon the chair of the Committee, Julie Novkov, to draft a letter on the issues involved and circulate it in time for the next Council meeting which was scheduled for April 9th. As part of the informational process, Dan Pinello, a member of the Status Committee, notified persons on the LGBT Listserv on March 31, 2005, of the resolutions the Status Committee was proposing and provided the rationale for the resolutions. The two resolutions read as follows:


Whereas the American Political Science Association would never hold its annual meeting in a state that allocated marriage rights on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity, the APSA shall not hold its annual meeting in any state that allocated marriage rights on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.


The American Political Science Association resolves that, whereas the provision of domestic partnership benefits to non-married partners is a labor issue, the APSA shall not select as its main conference hotel an establishment that refuses to provide said benefits.

Prior to the April 9th Council meeting, President Levi wrote to the Status Committee, "The issue and the LGBT resolutions are on the agenda of the Annual Meetings Committee on Friday, and their recommendation, your committee’s resolutions, and recommendations of the APSA staff will be formally considered by the Council in September.” (President Margaret Levi to Julie Novkov, Chair, LGBT Status Committee, April 6, 2005.)

In her e-mail, President Levi also acknowledged the Status Committee’s concern about the possible commitment the APSA had made to New Orleans for 2012 but she assured the Committee that “we have some time to sort this out.”

The Minutes of the April Council meeting mention a discussion of the Status Committee resolutions that that led to the following result: "The [Annual Meeting] committee has asked the status committee for clarification on certain issues surrounding the resolutions and agreed not to make a recommendation until the status committee has had a chance to respond." (APSA Council Minutes, April 9, 2005, pp. 5-6)

While there was some discussion of the merits of sending the Status Committee’s resolutions to the Administrative Committee for action, the Council followed the lead of the Annual Meeting Committee by voting against that expedited proposal.

I do not have a record of the specific clarifications requested. What I know happened is that members of the Status Committee were in touch with Council members and staff after the April meeting particularly with regard to reframing the first resolution. As a result of those discussions, the Committee submitted a revised resolution. Again, no record of that revised resolution is currently available to me. For that reason, I am submitting a newly-written version of Resolution #1. That resolution reads as follows:

Whereas the American Political Science Association (APSA) would never hold its annual meeting or other meetings organized under its auspices in a state that allocated marriage rights on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity, the APSA shall not hold any meetings in any state whose constitution, by express provision, limits civil marriage to one man and one woman, or that otherwise disallows civil marriage to same-sex couples.

The APSA Council next met on August 31, 2005. The Minutes of that meeting do not indicate whether there was a substantive discussion of the two Status Committee resolutions but the Council did devote some attention indirectly to them. For, consistent with past practices, the Council unanimously agreed to constitute a decennial Annual Meeting Review Committee (AMRC) to examine the functioning of Annual Meetings. Among the matters referred to the AMRC was consideration of “issues raised in the resolutions submitted by the Labor Project and the Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and the Transgendered in the Profession” (APSA Council Minutes, August 31, 2005, p. 5).

Major attention was given by the Council to a discussion of labor practices at host hotels in prospective Annual Meeting cities. The AMRC was charged with reviewing matters put forward by the Labor Project, notably threats of “labor disruptions” in San Francisco hotels where the 2006 conference was scheduled to meet; also involved were questions of the liability of the Association if it chose to withdraw from the contract. Given the time constraints involved, it was at the August 2005 meeting that the Council followed a staff recommendation to authorize the Council’s Administrative Committee to shift the 2006 Meeting to Philadelphia despite an expression of concern by one member of the Council that this decision was in violation of APSA’s “non-partisan clause,” (APSA Council Minutes, August 31, 2005, pp. 5-6.]

It was not until the Spring of 2007 that the AMRC issued its report. (In the interim the APSA Council did not address the Status Committee’s resolutions.) The section of the AMRC Report dealing with the issues raised by the Status Committee (and the Labor Project) focuses on maintaining the “right of termination” by APSA without liability when discriminatory practices (or inappropriate labor practices) occur. As the authors of the Report declare,

APSA reserves the right of termination if the government of the city in which the hotel is located establishes or enforces laws that, in the estimation of APSA, abridge the civil rights of any APSA member on the basis of gender, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, physical handicap, disability or religion. (AMRC Report, 2007, p. 10).

While the AMRC conceded that some members of the Association had urged them to go further in detailing non-discrimination policy, it “felt any larger change in this policy was a matter for the Council, not for us” At the same time, the Committee urged APSA negotiators to “give preference to a suitable unionized hotel and/or service provider, cost considerations being otherwise equal.” (Ibid.)

While we applaud the approach enunciated by the AMRC on both anti-gay policies and on labor issues, these statements did not put the APSA firmly on record in assuring that the health, safety and comfort of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender members of the Association and of their relationships would be taken into account in selecting the locations and host hotels for APSA meetings (despite a policy passed in 1990 that included “sexual orientation” among the categories that would be considered in selecting “welcoming” sites for the location of APSA meetings). That is why the Status Committee now returns to the Council to request that the general standards laid out in the AMRC Report serve as the basis for the APSA Council to ratify the two resolutions (as revised) originally proposed in 2005.

At the same time as we advocate for the adoption of these statements of principle, we recognize the need for APSA to have available clearer operational guidelines in siting meetings in the future. In a personal communication (July 2, 2007), Professor Joan Tronto, Chair of the AMRC, pointed to the problems involved in weighing the relative claims raised in conflicting circumstances. How are the presence or absence of state constitutional amendments to be weighed against the LGBT-friendly policies of prospective convention cities (if at all)? How is the absence of a state constitutional amendment to be counted when the prospective host city’s policies are silent on LGBT issues or homophobic statements are made by city political leadership?

These are not easy criteria to establish but the Committee feels that once the Council has gone on record to clearly enunciate support for the concerns of its LGBT members, the next step is to develop a list of criteria which identify and assign weights to prospective meeting sites. Since the number of potential convention sites is not huge, that task may not be as difficult as it may seem initially. The Status Committee would be happy to work with APSA staff and other interested status committees to specify such criteria and develop weights to assign to those criteria.

Finally, while this statement has focused primarily on our concern about the siting of Annual Meetings, we are also asking the APSA Council to apply the same principles to other meetings held directly under APSA auspices, notably the Teaching and Learning Conferences.

Dan Pinello's letter

[Posted to Race Blog, October 8, 2007]

I write to request your support of a boycott of the American Political Science Association's 2012 Annual Meeting, currently slated for New Orleans, Louisiana.

In 2004, 78 percent of Louisiana voters (including a majority in Orleans Parish) passed this amendment to their state constitution: "Marriage in the state of Louisiana shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. No official or court of the state of Louisiana shall construe this constitution or any state law to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any member of a union other than the union of one man and one woman. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized. No official or court of the state of Louisiana shall recognize any marriage contracted in any other jurisdiction which is not the union of one man and one woman."

This language both limits marriage to different-sex couples and denies to same-sex pairs all "legal incidents" of marriage that arise from civil unions, domestic partnerships, and other familial arrangements. In other words, as a matter of state constitutional law, coupled lesbians and gay men can be nothing other than legal strangers to one another in Louisiana.

In 2005, the APSA's Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and the Transgendered in the Profession (on which I served from 2004 to 2007) adopted a resolution calling for the Association not to hold conventions in states with constitutional prohibitions of same-sex marriage. That year, the APSA Council forwarded the LGBT Status Committee's siting resolution to the newly formed Annual Meeting Review Committee for consideration.

This year, the Annual Meeting Review Committee reported that any change in the Association's conference-siting policy was a matter solely for the Council to determine.

On August 31st, the Council rejected the Status Committee's resolution.

The APSA's choice to hold annual meetings in states with constitutional provisions like that of Louisiana impedes the ability of LGBT political scientists to participate in the Association and to progress in the profession.

For instance, the domestic partners and children of LGBT members travel with them to conventions. Lee, my own partner of 12 years, has gone with me to meetings in Chicago and San Francisco. Were I to be hospitalized or otherwise incapacitated while visiting New Orleans in 2012, I would want Lee to make medical and other decisions on my behalf, and vice versa. However, under the Louisiana amendment, we couldn't do that for each other.

This example isn't hypothetical. Lee has Type 1 diabetes, and I've had to take him to hospital emergency rooms because of his disease. I wouldn't want to face the question from medical staff in Louisiana, "Are you a member of his family?" In short, the Association's rejection of the Status Committee's siting policy makes only heterosexual families uniformly welcome at annual meetings.

The APSA's posture hits LGBT graduate students and junior faculty with particular force. In 2012, they face the Hobson's choice of, on the one hand, subjecting themselves and their families to an overtly hostile legal environment while in New Orleans or, on the other hand, not attending the conference and missing its opportunities to interview for jobs and to present papers in order to advance careers.

What is more, the Association established a relevant precedent in the 1970s and '80s when it refused to hold conventions in states that hadn't ratified the federal Equal Rights Amendment. That policy precluded meetings in Chicago, because Illinois never approved the ERA.

Hence, while the APSA was fully prepared a generation ago to battle gender discrimination, the organization isn't willing today to combat sexual-orientation discrimination with similar resolve. Instead, by selecting New Orleans for an annual meeting, the Association condones the condemnation of same-sex couples to the legal purgatory that Louisiana, and New Orleans itself, authorized in 2004.

In truth, the APSA would never consider New Orleans if the Louisiana Constitution discriminated on the basis of ethnicity, gender, race, or religion as blatantly as it does with regard to sexual orientation. Our national professional organization of political scientists, thus, reinforces the sad reality that explicit governmental discrimination against LGBT Americans remains politically and socially acceptable.

The Status Committee's resolution eliminates just Atlanta and New Orleans from the cities with convention facilities that have been sufficient in the past to accommodate the Association's annual gatherings. Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toronto, and Washington are, and will remain, viable venues for conferences. Surely this list is adequate to suit the organization's siting needs.

I have faith that the American Political Science Association has the capacity -- and can summon the compassion -- to ensure that all of its members are treated with dignity and respect at annual meetings. I hope that you share my belief. If so, please be kind enough to forward this message with your own statement (e.g., "I support the New Orleans boycott") to the Association's President and Executive Director:

Dianne Pinderhughes, Dianne.M.Pinderhughes.1@nd.edu
Michael Brintnall, brintnall@apsanet.org

Please "cc" me at dpinello@jjay.cuny.edu

In addition, if you know members of the APSA Council, please ask them to reconsider their rejection of the Status Committee's siting resolution. Current Council members include:

Lisa Baldez, lisa.baldez@dartmouth.edu
Susan Burgess, burgess@ohio.edu
Dennis Chong, dchong@northwestern.edu
Michael Doyle, md2221@columbia.edu
Kerry Haynie, klhaynie@duke.edu
Arthur Lupia, lupia@umich.edu
Anna Sampaio, anna.sampaio@cudenver.edu
Melissa Williams, mwilliam@chass.utoronto.ca

Lastly, please let me know if you're willing to assist in organizing the boycott.

With your help, we can persuade the Association to relocate the 2012 conference while there's still time to do so.


P.S. This message is being sent to political scientists at more than 200 colleges and universities across the United States.

Daniel R. Pinello
Professor of Government
John Jay College of Criminal Justice of
The City University of New York

Author of:
Gay Rights and American Law
(Cambridge University Press, 2003) and America's Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage (Cambridge University Press, 2006)