Tuesday, April 8, 2008
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 email@example.com
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.
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
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
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)
FIRST PROPOSED RESOLUTION
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.
SECOND PROPOSED RESOLUTION
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.)
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
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.
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.firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Brintnall, email@example.com
Please "cc" me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com
Susan Burgess, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dennis Chong, email@example.com
Michael Doyle, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kerry Haynie, email@example.com
Arthur Lupia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Anna Sampaio, email@example.com
Melissa Williams, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Gay Rights and American Law
(Cambridge University Press, 2003) and America's Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage (Cambridge University Press, 2006)