News Coverage: Standoff: Manchester Boycott Leadership vs American Historical Association

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Standoff: Manchester Boycott Leadership vs American Historical Association

Both Sides Pushing for Most Fruitful Solution

Morgan M. Hurley, CopyEditor Fri, 11/27/2009

Photo credit: Fred Karger Advertising the Manchester Hyatt Boycott at Stockholm Pride

Photo credit: Fred Karger Advertising the Manchester Hyatt Boycott at Stockholm Pride

Cleve Jones is furious.

This coming January, the American Historical Association (AHA) is holding their 124th Annual Meeting at the Manchester Grand Hyatt here in San Diego, despite their knowledge of the ongoing boycott against that property and repeated appeals for them to move venues.

The Grand Hyatt’s owner not only contributed $125,000 to Proposition 8, he helped get it on the ballot. Prop 8 ended marriage equality for millions of Californians when it was narrowly passed in November 2008.

The AHA, founded in 1884, is a Washington D.C. based organization made up of 15,000 scholars and educators across the country, a large number of which are also in the LGBT community. It is the oldest and largest professional organization in the United States.

“I am profoundly disappointed that gay historians will be the first LGBT people to violate this boycott,” said Jones. “It is a slap in the face of the hard work of the LGBT community in San Diego.

“San Diego’s gay community has come so far after decades of struggle in this conservative city, and to have these out-of-towners come in and thumb their nose up – it’s unconscionable.”

Jones, a long-time gay activist and co-founder of the NAMES Project and AIDS Memorial Quilt, is currently the International Director of LGBT Community Programs for the labor union, UNITE HERE (which includes Hotel and Restaurant Employees). SDGLN.com spoke with Cleve at the union’s Local 30 offices in San Diego.

Although the Manchester property is not unionized, UNITE HERE has taken an official stance behind the boycott for several reasons. Most importantly, Jones pointed out, are the large numbers of gays and lesbians within the hospitality industry. Secondly, the LGBT community is also an important target market for the industry.

“UNITE HERE supports full equality for LGBT rights and fights for protections, ENDA inclusive language and health care benefits for employee partners in all contracts, which we just succeeded with in Hawaii,“ explained Jones. “We also look for any opportunity to further relationships with progressives by getting involved in things such as Proposition 8, local elections, and other contracts to support LGBT workers.”

Doug Manchester, a resident of La Jolla, says he contributed $125,000 to Prop 8 on behalf of ProtectMarriage.com because of his Roman Catholic beliefs, but also said that despite this, gays and lesbians are welcome at his hotel.

Said Jones, “He was the second largest individual contributor to get Proposition 8 on the ballot and he has a history of providing financial support to extreme right-wing, anti-gay, anti-worker organizations. He’s a bad guy.”

The boycott was launched in the spring of 2008 as a result of GLAAD pulling major events that corresponded with San Diego Pride out of the Hyatt. The action came after word got out of Manchester’s contribution. Since then, over $7 million dollars in contracts with the Manchester Grand Hyatt have been thwarted as a result of the boycott. Taking into account figures on individual cancellations and other potential lost revenue not tracked or included- it could be millions more.

Several different organizations are providing leadership for the boycott: Californians Against Hate, Courage Campaign, Equality California, and UNITE HERE. Leaders of the boycott have worked closely with dozens of organizations – many of which had been booked years in advance – encouraging their participation and helping them find loopholes in their contracts, if necessary. These same people have offered their services to the AHA but they have not been responsive.

Citing a contract that they finalized six years ago, the AHA states that if they could get out of their contract without facing bankruptcy or extreme hardship, they would. Their cancellation fee is $750,000.

“We looked at the contract very closely,” said Arnita Jones, Executive Director. “There is an anti-strike clause, and if the workers at the Hyatt were participating, we could have opted out, but there are no workers from the hotel on the picket line, and there is no official strike.”

Cleve feels their explanation for moving forward with the contract falls a dollar short.

“This is a labor sanctioned boycott. An official labor boycott,” he said. “I don’t want to lecture historians, but the AHA is being used by Manchester to violate the boycott.”

After the passing of Proposition 8, LGBT members of the AHA brought forth the issue at a smaller annual conference of the AHA last January. As a result, the AHA adopted a resolution, full of ways they could step into the conversation. Much to the chagrin of the boycott leadership, moving their annual meeting from the grounds of the Manchester Grand Hyatt was not one of them.

One of the first things the resolution did put forth was the creation of a LGBTQ Task Force “to take a careful look at all professional concerns of the community – at Grad school, in employment – what can be done to make it more welcoming, more equal, with less discrimination,” explained Arnita.

In addition, a Working Group was launched to advertise, request a call for papers and structure a series of special sessions on same-sex marriage to take place at the Hyatt during their Annual Meeting. In a press release announcing the resolution, the 2010 annual meeting was identified as “an opportunity to seize a significant teaching moment.”

“The AHA has a rich body of research on (the institution of) marriage throughout history, and it’s always been evolving,” she continued. “We think it is very important to take these sessions into the Hyatt and have a scholarly conference, with no specific point of view in mind.” On the AHA website, the Executive Committee refers to the sessions as “scholarly findings that should increase public understanding of the complexity and fluidity of marriage practices.”

The 15 special sessions, according to the AHA website, fall under a special event titled, “Events of the AHA Working Group for Historical Perspectives on Same-Sex Marriage.” The sessions span each day of the four day conference, with Paper and Panel Topics on a wide range of related subjects, such as: Gay Marriage and Proposition 8, Reflections; Access Denied: Comparative Biopolitics of Marriage Restriction; Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Marry; and, Male Couples and the Meanings of Same-Sex Love in Turn-of-the-Century Europe and America.

Arnita said the focus of these sessions will be on marriage over time and place, equality in other countries, and changes to marriage in the US. “Just in the last half century, things such as social security and health benefits have been added to marriage. In the early 19th century, women even didn’t have the same rights in a marriage. Marriage has never been static.”

Cleve Jones and others behind the boycott, including Californians Against Hate founder Fred Karger, already upset that the AHA will continue with their conference at the Hyatt, are offended that the AHA would consider holding any session with a LGBT focus inside the hotel that is in the midst of a boycott for LGBT reasons.

“This adds insult to injury – it is outrageous,” said Jones. “It is arrogant of the AHA and not helpful in any way. I recognize it is inconvenient, but standing up for one’s principles is often inconvenient.”

Karger agrees. “If they really want to make a statement, they’d take those sessions outside of the hotel.”

Both men stated they’d be happy to help the AHA find alternative spaces to conduct the special sessions, so people involved do not have to cross the picket line or violate the boycott.

Although the location of the conference remains a touchy subject- the AHA isn’t backing down.
Said Arnita Jones, “It has never been our intention to offend any member of the LGBTQ community. On the contrary, this mini-conference on historical perspectives of same-sex marriage is designed to make a serious and lasting contribution to the conversation on marriage equality. The 15-session event is a major focus of our annual meeting.

“The mini-conference will address the diversity of approaches to marriage and family over time and place,” she continued. “It is a direct response to arguments used by proponents of Proposition 8, that marriage has been the same through the ages and is now changing for the first time. By voting to hold these sessions in the Hyatt, the AHA members wanted to take this information to where we felt it was needed most.”

The AHA also states they are not paying for the meeting spaces, meaning Doug Manchester will not make any money from the meetings specifically. In keeping with their desire to make the sessions as public and as accessible as possible, they’ve even extended an invitation to Manchester, himself.

In addition, alternative hotels in the area have been offered up to the 5,000-6,000 expected attendees, and many are taking advantage of those alternatives. The AHA leadership is also encouraging membership dialogue and debate regarding their decisions, and promises to keep attendees informed of developments.

None of these concessions matter one bit to Cleve Jones, who feels the boycott still needs to be honored.

“Boycotts are a very important weapon and an effective tool,” said Jones. “They give people of conscience who are not directly affected by an issue or struggle the opportunity to support that struggle.”

Now a union employee himself, Jones referenced Cesar Chavez’ 1965 nation-wide boycott of grapes in support of the farm workers union, which lasted five years and ended in agreements suitable to both parties. The whole nation participated in the boycott while the previously unsuitable conditions the boycott was bringing attention to, affected only a specific group of individuals.

“Manchester did real damage to our community. One would think that historians of all people…..” his voice trailed off. Jones has started SleepWithTheRightPeople.com which focuses on gay friendly hotel properties so travelers can plan accordingly. The website also highlights individual LGBT hospitality employees.

Karger, who has been directly involved in assisting organizations out of their contracts; is a little more sympathetic, he understands the predicament of rigid contracts, how binding they can be, and the difficult situation they can put organizations in.

“I appreciate their position, but I hope they will never go back to the Manchester Hyatt again.”

The leaders of the boycott repeatedly stated throughout each interview that the AHA is not considered the enemy to the LGBT community; they just don’t want the AHA supporting the enemy by following through with their conference at the property in question. The AHA, on the other hand, truly wants to educate the masses, including Manchester, with their focus on topics related to the challenges that have always surrounded marriage, as well as the LGBT community.

Both the boycott leadership and the AHA have such strong opinions, and both sides feel they are pushing for the right outcomes. In the end, it appears they will need to agree to disagree, but there may be bruised egos left behind on both sides.

Only one thing is for sure, Cleve Jones will be on the picket line come January, to personally welcome the gay and straight historians of the AHA upon their arrival to Doug Manchester’s Grand Hyatt hotel.

Source: For more information about the boycott click HERE »

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News Coverage: Harry Reid: A Mormon in the middle

From The Salt Lake Tribune:

Harry Reid: A Mormon in the middle
Politics » Some say his liberal stands clash with his LDS faith.

By Thomas Burr

harry_reid

Washington » Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid keeps a copy of the Book of Mormon in his office just off the chamber floor. There’s a second copy handy to give away to someone in need of spiritual guidance.

“I’ve had more than that,” says the Nevada Democrat, pulling the extra edition from his desk drawer. “I have one left.”

The Temple-recommend-carrying Reid is very active in his church, say fellow members in the Washington area. But that may come as a shock to some Mormon critics who contend that the Senate leader’s political stands put him at odds with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The latest round of religiously charged criticism came after Reid told gay rights groups in a private meeting that the LDS Church’s efforts to back the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 in California was a waste of resources and hurt the faith’s missionary efforts.

Utah Republican Party Chairman Dave Hansen posted a news story on that subject on his Facebook page, prompting several conservatives to challenge Reid’s Mormon credentials.

Conservative activist and Utah blogger Holly Richardson said she found Reid’s comments disconcerting and doesn’t see how Reid’s far left political beliefs can align with the LDS Church.

“I just don’t get how his politics translate to somebody who has LDS beliefs,” Richardson says. “He’s an embarrassment to me as a Mormon.”

Reid, who in 2007 became the highest ranking elected Mormon in the church’s history, says he’s faced this for years. And he’s not offended.

“I think some of the most unChristian-like letters, phone calls, contacts I’ve had were from members of the [LDS] church, saying some of the most mean things that are not in the realm of our church doctrine or certainly Christianity,” Reid said last week during an interview in his office.

Reid converted to Mormonism his senior year in college and attends church just outside the District of Columbia when in Washington or in Boulder City when in Nevada.

He recalls a time when his grandchildren were trick-or-treating at a local LDS ward event and came upon a poster featuring a picture of the Devil and Reid, and asking “Can you tell the difference?”

“I remember it,” Reid says when asked how he deals with the criticism, “but I try not to let people who do not represent the teachings that I have learned interfere with my basic beliefs.”

Religion and politics » Reid isn’t the first and likely not the last political leader to face fire for personal religious beliefs.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the Vatican earlier this year, an anti-abortion Catholic group hand delivered a letter calling for her to be ousted from the faith for her pro-abortion rights stand. A few Catholic bishops said during the 2004 presidential campaign that they would refuse Democratic Sen. John Kerry communion for his position on abortion.

Questions were raised during John F. Kennedy’s bid for the presidency about whether Rome would call the shots because of his Catholic faith and similar questions arose with Mitt Romney, a Mormon, during his White House bid last year.

“Having Mormons criticize Harry Reid, Catholics criticize Nancy Pelosi — George W. Bush got criticism from Methodists — it’s not an uncommon experience at all,” says John Green, senior researcher at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

“There are disputes within almost every religious community about what it means to be a strong supporter of the faith. What is it to be a good member?” Green continues. And because much of that dispute deals with controversial subjects, it spills over to politics.

“It is a very tough spot that Sen. Reid is in,” Green says. “It ought to be tough enough to represent Nevada [and be majority leader] without the religion angle and the religion angle just makes that much tougher.”

Washington lobbyist William Nixon, who is also the church’s Arlington Stake president, says Reid is in politics’ most precarious position.

“Serving as a majority leader in either party is always difficult for politicians,” says Nixon, a Republican. “You need to be the spear carrier for your party even on issues that are in the extremities and that often is at odds with what’s good politics at home or even how you may worship personally.”

The LDS Church declined comment for this story but pointed to its statement on relationships with government.

It says that elected officials who are LDS make their own decisions “and may not necessarily be in agreement with one another or even with a publicly stated church position.”

And the church has made efforts in the past to dispel the notion that it sides with conservative politics. In 1998, church General Authority Marlin Jensen stressed that good Mormons can also be good Democrats. The late James E. Faust, a Democrat and then a member of the First Presidency, the church’s top governing body, said it was in the church’s best interest to have a two-party system.

Still, Mormon faithful remain overwhelmingly conservative. A survey released in July by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life showed that 65 percent of Mormons aligned themselves with the Republican Party or leaned that way, while 22 percent sided with the Democratic Party.

There are 14 members of the LDS Church in Congress. Ten are Republicans and four are Democrats.

But even some of the well-known Republican elected Mormons defend Reid as a faithful church member.

“He has the right to voice his opinions but I would under no circumstances challenge Harry’s credentials as a member of the church,” says Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.

Bennett’s Utah Senate colleague, Orrin Hatch, says it’s not fair for fellow Mormons to disparage Reid as anything but a devout Mormon. Hatch says he didn’t agree with Reid’s statement on the gay marriage ballot question but said he’s entitled to speak it.

“I can personally tell you that Harry is a good member of the LDS faith and he was expressing a personal opinion that his side feels very deeply about,” Hatch says.

Reid says church leaders have never complained about his political statements.

Reid’s calling » Shortly after being elected in 1986, church leaders summoned Reid to their Salt Lake City headquarters.

“It was a pretty short meeting,” Reid says. “They said, here’s your assignment: Be the best member of the church you can be. That was it.”

Even on the most recent issue of gay marriage, Reid says he doesn’t disagree with the church’s position on traditional marriage. The senator says he voted in Nevada for the state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

But he says he’s expressed his concern for years to leaders about the church stepping into the debate and that the millions the church invested in the Prop 8 campaign was bad strategy.

Reid said he’s not suggesting the church change its position, just that it not speak out so strongly. “It’s just bad strategy to create so much ill-will in California.”

The Democrat, though, says he understands the backlash he gets over such statements. He notes that most of the church’s lay ecclesiastic leaders are conservative and he’s fine with that.

“I don’t think my faith is a hindrance to what I do and I’m sorry if people feel that I in some way embarrass them,” Reid says, “but I have to frankly say that even on this issue there are a lot of people that say ‘we agree with you.'”

On Sunday, Reid, with his security escort in tow, likely made his home teaching rounds after his ward’s three-hour service. Anyone who questions his Mormon credentials should see that, says Jim Vlach, his home-teaching companion.

“He’s got a tremendous burden with health care [reform] right now, but despite that, he finds time for home teaching,” says Vlach.

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State commission to investigate gay marriage repeal backer

State commission to investigate gay marriage repeal backer

Friday, October 2, 2009 2:05 PM EDT

AUGUSTA — The Commission on Governmental Ethics and Elections Practices voted 3-2 Thursday to launch an investigation of the Stand for Marriage Maine Political Action Committee’s primary funder, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). Both are working for a Nov. 3 people’s veto of a same-sex marriage law the Legislature passed and Gov. John Baldacci signed this spring.
A referendum to repeal that law — initiated by a petition drive — will appear as Question 1 on the Nov. 3 state ballot.

The commission’s decision reversed staff recommendations and followed nearly 40 minutes of conflicting assertions by Fred Karger, executive director of Californians Against Hate; Barry Bostrom and Brian Brown, of the National Organization for Marriage; and Danielle Truszkovsky, a freelance journalist from Florida.

Karger asserted that NOM was attempting to circumvent Maine election law by obscuring the names of its donors. He submitted dozens of documents dating to Aug. 13 and brought additional material to Thursday’s commission meeting.
Brown, NOM’s executive director, and his attorney, Bostrom, called Karger’s requests nothing more than attempts to identify those opposed to same-sex marriage as targets for future hate crimes. Each reiterated NOM’s compliance with Maine election law, explaining NOM does not solicit donations for work in specific states and instead conducts more generalized fundraising drives to support causes through its general treasury.

Of its effort to protect donor identities, Truszkovsky indicated NOM failed to disclose basic nonprofit financial statements, an Internal Revenue Service 990, and had filed amendments to the 990 three times. She told commissioners less than 1 percent of nonprofit organizations amend the disclosure one time, indicating three amendments in one reporting period was highly unusual.
Brown and Bostrom said the forms are now available on NOM’s Web site, http://www.nationformarriage.org/, in part because repeated requests for the public documents had interfered with staff work.

It was Karger’s documents, however, that piqued the interest of Commissioner Walter McKee, who seized on newsletters and other material specifically citing NOM’s interest in preserving traditional unions in Maine.

McKee seemed particularly incensed by one newsletter, where more than half the content was dedicated to funding efforts in Maine.

Bostrom responded that NOM’s e-mail newsletters solicited funds to “cover the costs of sending out e-mail newsletters.” Because NOM did not receive more than $5,000 from the newsletters, Bostrom said Maine law does not require NOM to register in the state as a political action committee. He also refuted arguments that NOM would be required to register as a ballot question initiative committee under Maine law.

This is not Karger’s first attempt to challenge supporters of same-sex marriage repeal initiatives. He asked the California Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate the connection between NOM and the Church of Latter Day Saints and its purported donations to Proposition 8, the 2007 measure that repealed same-sex marriage in California.

Brown told commissioners the Californian commission had not issued a finding of wrongdoing against NOM, which raised $1.8 million in less than two years in support of a California PAC supporting Proposition 8. Brown further asserted Karger’s efforts were merely to expose the names of those who consider marriage a union between one man and one woman.

Maine’s referendum has earned national interest, a point reiterated by those speaking before the commission Thursday. Karger traveled from California; Bostrom traveled from Indiana; Brown from New Jersey; and, Truszkovsky from Florida.

No one from Maine spoke in favor of or in opposition to the request to investigate National Organization for Marriage.

The proximity of the vote did not weigh on commissioners, who urged staff to review allegations given what one commissioner called the “slippery slope” of groups attempting to circumvent Maine election law.

Of the $343,689 in donations reported by Stand for Marriage Maine PAC as of June 2009, Karger wrote that religious organizations and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family fund donated all but $400 of the total raised.

He alleges the amount of donations to NOM, and the organization’s mission, makes NOM subject to Maine’s election laws.

McKee, of Hallowell, was initially inclined to follow staff recommendations, yet was persuaded by Karger’s arguments.

“There is a large amount of money in this campaign that concerns me, and I have to say authorizing investigations in circumstances like this is appropriate,” McKee said.

“I am troubled by the slippery slope when entities can circumvent the intent of what our laws seek to cover,” Commissioner Andre Duchette of Brunswick said. “I do think an investigation is warranted.”

Outgoing commission chairman Michael Friedman of Bangor disagreed, saying the pattern of national money flowing to Maine elections was the norm, not the exception. He urged commissioners to review statutes.

Commissioner Edward Youngblood of Bangor also voiced opposition. “There is no reason to get involved in a time-consuming investigation,” he said.

Commissioner Francis Marsano of Belfast said the commission needs to focus on the intent of the law.

“Time is not of the essence,” Marsano said, adding commission staff could not be expected to complete the investigation by the Nov. 3 election.

“This investigation should be done in a way that will produce the kinds of results Commissioner McKee was proposing,” he said.

McKee and Duchette, both Democrats, and Marsano, a Republican, voted to order the investigation. Republican Youngblood, and Friedman, who is not enrolled in a political party, opposed.

Marc Mutty, chairman of Stand for Marriage Maine, released a statement blasting the decision. “Stand for Marriage Maine is in complete compliance with Maine campaign disclosure laws,” he wrote. “The decision today by the Maine Ethics Commission to open an inquiry based on frivolous allegations concerning the fundraising procedures of one of our allies, the National Organization for Marriage, is an unfortunate abuse of power. It is yet another example of the harassment that follows supporters of traditional marriage. The split 3-2 vote overruled the independent professional recommendation of the commission staff that an investigation was not warranted. Instead, a bare majority of commissioners agreed with a California-based hate group that exists for the sole purpose of harassing marriage supporters …”

If California’s investigation is any indication, Maine’s probe will carry on well past Election Day. Reached for comment Thursday, Roman Porter, executive director of CFPP, said the California investigation spurred by Karger’s complaint is in its 11th month. Porter was unwilling to provide a timeline of when the investigation might end.Jonathan Wayne, executive director of Maine’s ethics commission, sought clarification of the staff role in the investigation and was authorized to subpoena Brown, through attorney Bostrom, as needed.The commission meets next on Nov. 19.

news@timesrecord.com

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