Tuesday, April 8, 2008

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.

No comments: