Organizations representing thousands of legal educators say they will boycott the Association of American Law Schools annual meeting in January if it is held at a San Diego hotel owned by a foe of same-sex marriage.
The groups made up of law professors and legal writing professionals have sent letters to the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), calling for it to move the site chosen for the conference in January.
The groups object to holding the annual meeting at the San Diego Manchester Grand Hyatt, a hotel whose owner, Douglas Manchester, has donated $125,000 to an initiative to outlaw same-sex marriage in California.
The groups say that to attend the five-day event hosted primarily at the Manchester Grand Hyatt would conflict with their policies of nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation.
The groups that say they will not attend the event if it is held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt are the Legal Writing Institute; the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Research and Reasoning; and the AALS Section on Teaching Methods. Also writing a letter that urges the AALS to move the meeting is the Society of American Law Teachers. The groups represent as many as 2,500 members.
“Everybody is holding their breath and waiting to see,” said Ruth Anne Robbins, chairwoman of the Legal Writing Institute, which has about 2,100 law educator members. She is a clinical professor at Rutgers School of Law in Camden, N.J.
Manchester, a San Diego businessman, earlier this year donated $125,000 toward an initiative to place Proposition 8 on the November ballot, an amendment to the California Constitution that would ban same-sex marriages. In May, the California Supreme Court struck down a law that banned same-sex marriage.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Manchester said that he was concerned about the consequences to his business because of his support for Proposition 8. Gay rights activists in San Diego recently held a protest at the Grand Hyatt over the donation by Manchester, who is a devout Catholic. He said the activists were using the issue to try and unionize the workers at the hotel.
“It is sad and sick that our wonderful gay and lesbian employees are caught in the middle,” he said.
In an interview on Monday, Robbins said her group would not attend any events at the hotel and would move its own events elsewhere.
Also on Monday, Louis Sirico, chairman of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Research and Reasoning, said that if the AALS does not move the meeting, his group will not attend events at the hotel.
“It’s a matter of principle,” he said. “We just don’t believe in this kind of discrimination.” Sirico is director of the legal writing program at Villanova University School of Law.
The AALS meeting is scheduled for Jan. 6-10. Nearly all of the 200 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association belong to AALS.