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More on the AALS "Boycott" of Hotel Because of Owner's Contribution to Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Ballot Initiative:

Here's a statement from three USD law professors condemning the action (which, to my knowledge, consists of the AALS's not breaching its contract to reserve a block of guest rooms, but moving conference events from the hotel):

Statement on the AALS "Boycott"

1. The matter of same-sex marriage is currently a hotly debated issue in the United States, with complicated cultural, religious, and political dimensions. Americans, and presumably American law professors, hold a variety of views on this issue.

2. As various scholars and commentators have pointed out, legal recognition of same-sex marriage is likely to have a significant impact on some religious or religiously-affiliated institutions. The matter thus has potentially important implications for religious freedom. These are also the subject of a variety of views among Americans and, presumably, American law professors.

3. The Association of American Law Schools is a professional association. Its purpose is to promote the interests of law schools and the legal academy. In performing this function, the AALS can and should facilitate debate and expression among legal academics on a wide range of issues, including same-sex marriage. The AALS itself, however, is not and should not be a partisan political organization working to advance particular positions on issues about which Americans and American law professors are divided. Groups or individuals who attempt to commandeer the organization in behalf of contested political causes undermine the organization and its ability to serve the professional purposes for which it exists.

4. There has not been, to our knowledge, any careful or sustained discussion within the AALS seeking to ascertain the views of member schools or law professors or to determine whether any consensus exists regarding either the issue of same-sex marriage or the question of appropriate political or economic action by the AALS with respect to the issue.

5. In this situation, the recent announcement by the AALS of what is widely viewed and described as a "boycott" of a hotel based on an owner's support of California's Proposition 8 (which supports traditional marriage) reflects an ill-conceived and inappropriate action by the AALS's leadership. Although the announcement has generated considerable confusion, it clearly seems calculated to put the AALS's prestige and economic weight behind opposition to Proposition 8, and thus in effect to place the AALS on record as supporting same-sex marriage. Given the AALS's purposes, this action is inappropriate and presumptuous.

6. The AALS should refrain from such inappropriate actions, now and in the future. It is likewise inappropriate for individual sections of the AALS, organized to promote particular subject matter interests (such as legal writing), to purport to speak for their own section members on political issues.

7. Individual law professors may wish to consider declining to attend the AALS conference this year as a way of expressing their disapproval of the AALS's inappropriate decision.

Larry Alexander
Maimon Schwarzschild
Steven D. Smith
[all from the law school at the] University of San Diego (for purposes of identification only)

PLEASE NOTE: The purpose of this Statement is emphatically not to take or endorse any position on the merits of Proposition 8, but rather to call attention to what we believe is a deviation by the AALS from its proper function --- a deviation that is ultimately prejudicial to the organization and the interests of legal academics and institutions. We invite others who share our concerns, whatever their views may be with regard to Proposition 8 or same-sex marriage, to join us in encouraging the AALS and its leadership to promote the professional interests and purposes for which the organization exists.

I'm inclined to agree that academic organizations generally shouldn't boycott businesses because of the views the owners express, or the causes those owners support. The broader question of the propriety of boycotts by organizations is pretty complex, but I'm tentatively inclined to think that academic organizations have a special professional obligation not to discriminate based on people's speech or other political activity, with regard to outsiders as well as with regard to scholars and students. (I talk about this broader question in some measure in Part II of this article, though that doesn't cover the special professional duties, if there are some, of academic organizations.)

Angus:
Agreed. Professional organizations should limit themselves to professional issues. I left the main professional organization in my field over an anti-Iraq War resolution. Though I was and still am against the war, I thought that the organization had no right to make a political statement speaking for every member of the profession.
9.5.2008 3:43pm
MayBee (mail):
It is an interesting contrast to professors wanting/having tenure for themselves, so they are protected against backlash for having unpopular positions.
9.5.2008 3:45pm
Carolina:
That is exactly the reason I am not a member of the ABA. If they restricted themselves to advocating for changes in the Rules of Evidence and that sort of thing, I'd happily send in my money every year.

But the last thing I want is to have what in theory is a professional organization for lawyers hectoring me on gun control or abortion.
9.5.2008 4:06pm
Flyer:

Eugene:

I'm inclined to agree that academic organizations generally shouldn't boycott businesses because of the views the owners express, or the causes those owners support.


Translation: I like my cozy job.

There is a difference between owners views and their activity. Would you say the same of eugenics in Gernamy in 1941 (as a German academic)?
9.5.2008 4:49pm
Mike 08:
Godwin's law in 5 posts. Impressive.

Carolina: agree completely - I was a Canadian Bar Association member as long as they dealt with access to justice and similar issues, when they started getting into making value judgments on behalf of their membership I lobbied against, then quit.
9.5.2008 5:02pm
KWC (mail):
Eugene:

Would your opinion be the same if the owner of the hotel was a high-ranking official in a Neo-Nazi Group bent on diminishing the rights of Jewish people?
9.5.2008 5:29pm
torrentprime (mail):

The matter thus has potentially important implications for religious freedom.

Ah yes, City Hall handing out marriage licenses has such an impact on Christians' ability to worship. Clearly, the decision in Massachusetts a few years back and California's now has fundamentally altered the practice and freedom of religion in those states.
Sigh.
The fear-mongering of the Christianists never ceases to amaze and amuse. If the polls are any indication, it may not work this time, but we'll see in about 60 days, I guess.
9.5.2008 6:09pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the statement require the AALS to take a position on just how bad (or not bad) anti-gay-marriage views are. Further, even a morally repugnant idea can gather substantial support (anti-miscegenation laws were once popular), so an idea can be morally repugnant even if "Americans, and presumably American law professors, hold a variety of views on this issue."

EV, is there any cause that you think would justify an academic organization boycotting a business?
9.5.2008 6:17pm
Adam J:
You're mocking the posters who reached Godwins law, yet there is still a basic point to be made... what can a professional organization boycott? The "defense of traditional marriage" movement is little more then pretext for bigotry against homosexuals if you ask me. Who really needs defending here? How can someone really be concerned that their marriage is going to be somehow diminished or undermined because a homosexual couple can get married too. People felt the same way about mixed race marriages once upon a time, are homosexual marriages any different?

And why don't the authors feel the need to give any support for Prop 8? I mean, there could be professors that support segregation, but I'd be shocked if these folks tried to write the same letter about a boycott of an establishment that gave money to political efforts to reintroduce segregation.
9.5.2008 6:23pm
Public_Defender (mail):
The letter also reflects a concern that anti-gay-marriage folks are correct to have. In many workplaces (and other settings), it is not out-of-bounds to be openly anti-gay. My, how things have changed, and for the better.

At one time, it was OK to be openly racist. It was also once OK to be openly anti-Semitic. Now, no one can imagine someone being openly anti-Semitic or openly racist at the office. Anti-Semites and racists still exist, but they have generally learned that it is socially unacceptable to share those views.

Now, in many places, those with anti-gay beliefs are on the same moral plane as anti-Semites and racists. Good.
9.5.2008 6:43pm
Daniel M. Roche (mail):
Those of you who try to correlate racism and anti-semitism to those who oppose gay marriage sound like self rightesous crusaders.

(1) Race is intrinsic. Homosexuality is a behavior that is not accepted by all people as an intrinsic characteristic. I await the consensus on that issue. Until then, your arguments are misplaced; I don't recall slave owners denying that blacks had no choice in the matter.

(2) Proposition 8 is not about denying rights. Gays in California already had all of the rights of heterosexuals, it was just not referred to by the same name. Hardly the same as concentration camps and lynchings. No conservatives I know support exterminating gays or enslaving them. But just keep cramming your pathetic rhetoric down our throats . . .
9.5.2008 7:30pm
Tatil:
University of San Diego is a Roman Catholic university, one of the "religiously-affiliated institutions" that will be affected by same sex marriage. They will probably be forced to provide benefits to same sex spouses etc. Whether that can be called "greatly affected" is another debate, of course.
9.5.2008 8:29pm
K V:
I call bullshit. Seeing "professional" organizations as ones that stick to "professional issues" as opposed to politics is completely unfounded and fully misses the bigger picture.

These "rational" organizations still embedded in politics, society, and culture. When the Department of Defense is awarding contracts to corporations that have vested interests in the Republican Party (e.g. party donations), is it merely a case of "professionalism" and not open to critique? Are we not to judge the decisions of politicians, our professional appointees, on where they hold fundraisers, what they spend public money on, and the virtues they convey by their actions? How are politicians any different from the AALS? Did the AALS simply escape accountability?

It's about putting money where their mouth is, and calling a spade a spade.
9.5.2008 8:53pm
K V:
I also laugh at Daniel M. Roche's argument that "homosexuality is a behavior" and not intrinsic. Yes, gays are deviants that merely choose to live a "lifestyle" of sinful behaviour.
9.5.2008 8:55pm
james (mail):
If I where a member, my biggest concern would be that some yahoo's thought they had the right to speak for me. It doesn't matter if you agree with the position they took. If the leadership is allowed to speak for you on any issue they feel like, eventually they will take a position you disagree with.
9.5.2008 8:58pm
fahagen:
The AALS has morphed into a policital organization. My wife used to be a member of the Boalt Hall law school adminstration, in charge of dealing with the media. A story in the L.A. Times falsely reported that minority attendance at Boalt Hall had fallen since Prop. 209 passed (prohibiting racial preferences in state school admissions). The Dean told her to stop because he had learned at an AALS conference that Justice O'Connor reads the L.A.Times and they wanted O'Connor to believe that Prop. 209 caused a reduction in minority attendance at Boalt Hall. This was during the term when the SCOTUS was considering the Gruder decision regarding affirmative action in law school admissions. At the time I thought this was absurd and almost childish, but after the Gruder decision came out, I had to wonder whether it played a role.
9.5.2008 9:07pm
Public_Defender (mail):
Daniel Roche,

You didn't rebut my point that the moral validity of the boycott depends on the moral validity of anti-gay beliefs and actions. If you believe that anti-gay beliefs and actions are as bad as anti-Semitic or racist beliefs, then the boycott is morally acceptable, if not required.

And as to intrinsic v. non-intrinsic, you didn't deal with antisemitism. People can chose to not be Jewish. Does that mean it's OK to be anti-Semitic against practicing Jews?
9.5.2008 9:37pm
Randy R. (mail):
(2) Proposition 8 is not about denying rights. Gays in California already had all of the rights of heterosexuals, it was just not referred to by the same name. "

Right. So the Proposition 8 wont' actually deny gays any rights? Then why put it on the ballot? Sorry, but Orwellian tactics don't work here.
9.6.2008 1:12am
Jay Myers:
Public_Defender:

You didn't rebut my point that the moral validity of the boycott depends on the moral validity of anti-gay beliefs and actions. If you believe that anti-gay beliefs and actions are as bad as anti-Semitic or racist beliefs, then the boycott is morally acceptable, if not required.

And since abortion is murder and thus immoral, it is acceptable and possibly required for right-thinking people and organizations (no pun intended) to socially "punish" those who are pro-choice through boycotts and firings? I like your thinking Public_Defender!
9.6.2008 3:04am
Public_Defender (mail):
Jay Myers,

Abortion is a good example. An organization that opposes abortion rights has every right to boycott businesses that donate to pro-choice causes. As to academic freedom and the abortion debate, many Catholic universities won't even let a pro-choicer speak on campus.
9.6.2008 7:08am
Public_Defender (mail):
In the professor's article, he concludes the section on private retaliation:

People whose ideologies are rightly condemned tend to be costly employees as well as bad people. And employers should be free to stop paying a salary to people whose costs to the employer exceed their benefits.

One flaw is that it gives little guidance as to how to decide which "ideologies are rightly condemned." How do we decide if the expression of anti-gay beliefs falls into the same category as racist or antisemitic beliefs? Or whether they fall into the Democrat v. Republican or some other category?

Again, the article provides little guidance, so it basically comes down to the judgment call of whoever has the power to make the decision in question. And as many anti-gay people are discovering, there are a lot of employers and social situations in which the people with the power to make decisions believe that anti-gay expression is morally equivalent to antisemitic or racist expression.
9.6.2008 7:55am
Mark Hayden (mail) (www):
Oh, but isn't this a moot point? Didn't the Supreme Court decide that money = speech? So, by boycotting, one is just speaking out. And don't academic organizations and their representatives have freedom of speech?

For too long, the monied right has been pushing their agenda in print and on the air by using their ad buys to either approve or disapprove of content, to the point that you can find two points of view, the right wing and the far right wing. As most of the companies that buy the ad time are corporate and owned by perhaps hundreds of thousands of investors, you would think that they shouldn't make these forays into partisan politics. But they do.

I, for one, think professional organizations have every right (in fact, a responsibility) to make a statement with their dollars. Their members do, too, and have the right to leave any such organization they disagree with.

After all, if you pay money for a product or service that enriches the owners, isn't that de facto support for their views just as a boycott is a condemnation? So, by your logic, professional organizations should never purchase anything from anyone who ever makes a political statement? Or just that they shouldn't purchase, one way or another, based on the political viewpoints of the owners and maybe one day rent rooms at the Aryan Motor Lodge. What foolishness.

Societal norms are constantly changing, civil rights are one such example. One of the reasons for this advancement is the pressure of boycotts and threats of boycotts. Should professional organizations have remained aloof? Isn't the absence of taking a stand a stand in and of itself? Edmund Burke said, "All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing." So, I repeat, if the majority of the membership of an organization decides that supporting the anti-gay proposition is an evil, they have a right and responsibility to do something. And those who disagree have a right to boycott the organization and start one that doesn't take positions such as these.
9.6.2008 11:26am
Perseus (mail):
Should professional organizations have remained aloof?

As professional academic organizations: yes. Academic freedom is threatened by political causes that originate in society, and is threatened even more so by political causes that originate among academics themselves precisely because academic inquiry requires critical detachment.
9.6.2008 5:39pm
Public_Defender (mail):

As professional academic organizations: yes. Academic freedom is threatened by political causes that originate in society, and is threatened even more so by political causes that originate among academics themselves precisely because academic inquiry requires critical detachment.

Consider this not-so-unreal hypothetical. Back in the 60's, a group of academics who were holding a meeting had a choice between two hotels. The owner of the one with cheaper, better facilities was a big financial supporter of groups working to preserve segregation. Another hotel that was almost as good but a little more expensive had an owner who gave money to Martin Luther King. Could the academics morally choose to stay at the pro-MLK hotel simply because they didn't want to support segregation (which was a matter of debate at the time)? I would hope so.

And as to academic freedom, remember that at many Catholic universities, openly pro-choice people aren't even allowed to to give talks.
9.7.2008 12:40pm
Public_Defender (mail):
I think what's really ticking off and frightening some culturally conservative professors is that their views are following the path that pro-segregation and anti-semitic views. Their views are shifting from (ten-twenty years ago) being mainstream to (recently) being a matter of controversy among to (now and in the near future) becoming outside the pale of decent people. The trend is even stronger among academics.
9.7.2008 12:47pm