Come early January, while everything up here is well frozen, the Reddess and I will be chill-axing in San Diego at the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Schools. While there is much to be learned and important contacts to be made at such meetings, it's also a bit of a boondoggle.
I've blogged before on a call by certain individuals and organizations in the legal academy to boycott one of the hotels at which AALS has booked rooms and may hold events, the Manchester Grand Hyatt.
The reason for the boycott is that the owner of the Hyatt, Doug Manchester (more accurately, Manchester Financial), has contributed to the campaign to amend the California Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. To hold a meeting at his hotel, according to proponents of the boycott, would violate the anti-discrimination policies of the AALS and the various other organizations involved in the meeting.
There is much that is wrong with this. The hotel itself doesn't discriminate against gays and lesbians so the boycott is solely concerned with the politics and speech of its owner. It is scandalous, I think, for an academic organization purportedly devoted to an open debate and the full exploration of ideas to boycott someone simply because some of its members don't care for his ideas. It is particularly ironic that one of the principal organizers of the boycott teaches at Villanova, a Catholic institution that I suspect does not provide domestic partner benefits and is part of a church that not only opposes same-sex marriage, but regards it as a sin. Apparently conscience does not require foregoing a paycheck.
But that's not what I am interested in here.
The AALS sent an e-mail around today announcing that it will hold no events at the Grand Hyatt, placing them all in the San Deigo Marriott - the other hotel at which rooms for the meeting are being held. Apparently, the AALS contracts with the Grand Hyatt and Marriott "provide that each hotel reserve a block of guest rooms, and leave to the AALS the choice of where to locate the AALS Registration, Exhibit Hall, Section Programs, Presidential Programs, and House of Representatives meetings." The e-mail announces that the organization "will honor our contracts with both hotels, and we have exercised our option to hold all AALS events at the Marriott to ensure the maximum participation by our members. " In other words, the AALS thinks that it is honoring, insofar as it contracts permit, the boycott.
That's shameful. While I understand the desire to "maximize participation," a scholarly organization ought not cater to those who cannot tolerate opposing points of view.
But here's the beauty part. Doug Manchester owns the San Diego Marriott as well. Neither the boycotters nor the AALS appear to have done their homework.
Thus, assuming that the conscience of the boycotters requires that they not the only patronize Manchester properties, the only way to "do justice" is to stay home in January.
UPDATE: But maybe the boycotters did get it right. Although Manchester's website lists the Marriott as one of the Group's properties, the San Diego Business Jourmal reports that he sold his interest in the hotel last spring for 93 million dollars that he could "cash out" at any time (does that mean that he still retains his interest with the ability to put it to the buyer), but part of the consideration was a stake in the buyer so he retains an interest, albeit a very small one (2.5%) in the Marriott. I guess that's not enough to "taint" the hotel.