Archive for November, 2009

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

Monday, November 30th, 2009

sdgln

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 »

News Release: Extremists’ Declaration

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 24, 2009
Contact: Fred Karger
619-592-2008

Manhattan Declaration —
Who Are They Kidding?

MANHATTAN, New York — NOM head, Maggie Gallagher, as she puts it, “likes fairy tales.”  This sure sounds like a fairy tale to me, a very scary one.

Once upon a time there were 152 – how should I say it – extremists, all meeting in Manhattan (crazy place for this group to meet).  These 152 zealots drafted, approved and signed their Declaration of War on full civil rights for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans last week.  They threw in some other societal beefs, just to try and mask the overriding issue, their fervent opposition to same-sex marriage.

One major leader of their movement is missing from the 152 names.

There are NO MORMONS on the list, and several of us read it very carefully.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) has been leading the anti-gay marriage movement in this country for the past 14 years.  They have spent tens of millions of dollars in practically every state ($30 million in California alone last year) to fight equality and to pass constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

So where are the Mormon representatives on this illustrious list?  Are they truly backing off their longstanding opposition to gay civil rights?

To their credit, Michael Otterson, a high ranking Mormon Church official recently testified in support of the Salt Lake City ordinance that would no longer allow discrimination in employment and housing against LGBT people in Utah’s largest city.  While a small step, it has been broadcast around the world.  That’s because the Church, through its Public Affairs Department, got the word out – big time.

Let’s hope the Mormon leadership is truly softening its position on this issue.  It has been a huge PR nightmare for the Church, and one that divides so many Mormon families.  Maybe they will redirect all that time, talent and money to other causes, real problems.

There are plenty of Catholics on this list, however, and some very prominent ones. Two Cardinals and lots of Bishops.  Catholics appear to be the new Mormons in the fight against same-sex marriage.

The Catholic Church has become much more visible as the Mormons have backed off.  Maine Bishop Richard J. Malone and his sidekick, Marc Mutty ran and heavily funded the recent campaign in Maine to take away same-sex marriage in that state. The Roman Catholic Dioceses of Portland (ME) even set up a Political Action Committee (PAC), and gave and raised $553,000 to pass Question #1.  That’s a lot of money, especially when they recently closed 5 churches in Maine.

Now, last week in Washington D.C., the Catholic Church there threatened to stop feeding the homeless if the City Council passes a same-sex marriage bill. Yes, the Catholic Church will stop feeding the hungry!

Here’s what the New York Times editorial said about that yesterday.

National Organization for Marriage (NOM) Chairman Robert P. George authored their new manifesto, along with former Watergate felon Chuck Colson.  They hired a PR firm to publicize the Manhattan Declaration, the Mark DeMoss PR Group in Atlanta.  Their web site identifies them as “the first and largest PR firm exclusively representing faith-based leaders, organizations and causes.” The DeMoss Group promotes itself on www.ManhattanDeclaration.org web site almost as much as its client. Take a look:

The DeMoss PR Group even has a bible covering an American Flag on their web site’s home page:

DeMossNews_425

DeMoss PR Group website

And please read this great story on the Manhattan Declaration by Carlos Santoscoy, Editor of On Top Magazine: Click here

Religious Leaders Unite Against Gay Marriage, Rights

One-hundred and fifty-two evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christian leaders have signed a declaration saying they oppose laws that would compel them to recognize gay unions or marriages, among other social issues.

“We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on Earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence,” says the Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience.

The manifesto was unveiled Friday at the National Press Club. The document outlines the group’s three most pressing issues, two of which deal with gay rights: abortion, marriage and religious liberties.

“We argue that there is a hierarchy of issues,” Chuck Colson, a prominent evangelical who founded Prison Fellowship and co-authored the document, told the New York Times. “A lot of younger evangelicals say they’re all alike. We’re hoping to educate them that these are the three most important issues.”

Among the signatories are Rev. Donald W. Wuerl, the archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. and Bishop Harry R. Jackson, Jr.

Wuerl and Jackson are the chief opponents of a gay marriage law expected to be approved by the D.C. City Council on December 1. Wuerl has threatened to pull the plug on D.C. social programs, including serving the homeless and providing health care for the poor, unless the law includes language that allows individuals and private business owners to refuse to provide goods and services related to the nuptials of gay couples.

Jackson founded the Christian-backed group Stand4MarriageDC.com after city leaders approved a gay marriage-recognition law in the spring. His group is currently fighting for the right to put a gay marriage question on the ballot.

The document says, “We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other antilife act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent.”

The document’s language also takes aim at other gay rights laws, including a recently approved law that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of federally recognized hate crimes and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would ban workplace discrimination against gay men, lesbians and transgender people.

Social conservatives have argued that such measures would have a chilling effect on religious liberties.

Signers to the document include prominent opponents of gay rights, including Frank Schubert, who headed the campaign to reverse gay marriage in California, Alan Sears, president and general counsel of the Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund, David Welch, the Houston-area pastor leading the charge against mayoral candidate Annise Parker because she is openly lesbian, James Dobson, founder of the anti-gay group Focus on the Family, and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and a leading opponent of gay rights.

A surprising omission is the Rev. Rick Warren, the evangelical minister whose prayer at the inauguration of President Obama drew heated protest because of his support for Proposition 8, California’s gay marriage ban.

News Release: Maine’s Election Ethics Commission “Eager” to Continue Investigation into NOM’s Role

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 19, 2009
CONTACT: Fred Karger
(619) 592-2008

Maine’s Election Ethics Commission “Eager” to Continue Investigation into the National Organization for Marriage’s Role in Referendum Campaign against Marriage Equality

Augusta, Maine, November 19, 2009 — Californians Against Hate was pleased to learn this morning, at a hearing in Augusta, Maine, that Jonathan Wayne, Executive Director of the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, is “eager” to proceed with the commission’s investigation into the role played by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) in the state’s election held November 3, 2009.

The investigation is the result of allegations of election irregularities leveled by Californians Against Hate founder Fred Karger. The Washington D.C.-based NOM contributed $1.6 million to eliminate marriage equality in Maine — an amount well in excess of the allowable $5,000 “for the purpose of initiating [or] promoting” the people’s veto referendum on same-sex marriage in Maine.

The scope of the investigation, to be conducted by the commission’s staff and Maine’s Attorney General Janet Mills, will include:

  • What fundraising methods did NOM employ to solicit the money that it has contributed to Stand for Mariage Maine PAC?
  • What was NOM’s purpose in soliciting or receiving these funds?
  • What did NOM communicate to the individuals and organizations it solicited?
  • Did NOM receive any contributions within the categories set forth in §1056-B(2-A)? If so, how much was received in these categories?
  • Of the fundraising methods that are presently known (e.g., e-mail solicitations, newsletter), how much did NOM receive in response to these solicitations?

The inquiry may also extend to investigating whether NOM made any expenditures to initiate or to promote the referendum other than by contribution to Stand for Marriage Maine PAC.

Reacting to the commission’s decision, Californians Against Hate Founder Fred Karger, who attended the hearing in Augusta today, said, “I am extremely pleased that the State of Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Elections Practices has decided to pursue its investigation with such vigor into potential improprieties on the part of the National Organization for Marriage during the recent campaign in Maine.” In addition, Karger offered his help with the investigation as someone who has been tracking NOM for the past 17 months.

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Californians Against Hate is the new political watchdog for the LGBT community, and closely monitors all who oppose our civil rights. Individuals and organizations who give millions of dollars to deny LGBT full equality will be held accountable.