[originally posted on http://www.apsanet.org]

Memorandum

TO:  APSA Council and Members
FROM: Michael Brintnall, Executive Director
RE: APSA Practice for Annual Meeting Sites and the 2012 Annual Meeting


In response to questions about how APSA selects annual meeting sites, and about the decision to site the meeting in New Orleans in 2012, President Pinderhughes asked if I would prepare the following information and make it available to the Council and membership. 

Some of the key background points are this:

- APSA has a signed contract with the Marriott and Sheraton Hotels to hold our meeting in New Orleans in 2012. New Orleans was selected as part of a Council-approved rotation to go to all regions of the country. This contract was signed in 2003, one year before Louisiana adopted a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.

- The contract includes language asserting long-standing APSA policy that if the city establishes or enforces laws that violate civil rights of APSA members we may terminate the contract, including with respect to sexual orientation and marital status. This language was adopted many years ago at the request of the Gay and Lesbian Caucus.

- The Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and the Transgendered in the Profession has asked this year that this principle be extended to state policy – specifically to states with Constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Twenty-six states have such Constitutional provisions. The Committee’s documentation noted that 19 other states have statutory restrictions limiting marriage to one man and one woman, including many states in which APSA regular holds its meetings. (Only Massachusetts issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples and the remaining states allow different kinds of civil unions.) The LGBT committee themselves did not extend their petition to the states with statutory restrictions.

- The Annual Meeting Review Committee, considering the implications of a 26-state, and possibly a 45 to 49-state, limitation on meeting siting and other issues, recommended that the current city-level policy provision remain the policy.

- The Council accepted the Annual Meeting Review Committee position for the time being, while asking the Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and the Transgendered in the Profession for further clarification of its recommendation and for continued discussion with the Annual Meeting Committee.

- APSA has deferred making any new annual meeting contracting decisions until the siting policy is resolved. Decisions about the Teaching and Learning Conference site are needed on an annual basis, and we will handle this on a case-by-case basis with wide consultation.

- With respect to the existing contract in New Orleans, if we terminated the contract, our understanding of the worst case is that we could face financial damages to the hotel that could be extreme (e.g. in the realm of the value of the sleeping room revenue the hotel would have expected had the meeting occurred).

Key Questions and Issues:

1) What is APSA policy about picking a meeting site? APSA chooses sites five or more years in advance, with an emphasis on circulating through the regions of the US, going to first-tier cities, and offering affordable hotels near to each other or linked to a convention center with adequate capacity. 1

2) What are provisions about anti-discrimination and civil rights matters? In response to a request from, and in conversation with, the Gay and Lesbian Caucus during Judith Shklar’s presidency in 1990, the Council voted that APSA should only meet in cities where all members are welcome. The contract language agreed upon focused on the behavior of the city, not the state, with particular focus on discrimination in employment, housing, and access to public accommodations. The language reads:

10.02 APSA has selected [name of city] as a site of its annual meeting in light of the city's anti-discrimination record. APSA reserves the right of termination of this agreement, without penalty or liability, if the government of the city in which the hotel is located establishes or enforces laws that, in the estimation of APSA, abridge the civil rights of any APSA member on the basis of gender, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, physical handicap, disability, or religion.

3) What did the recent Annual Meeting Review Committee say about this policy? APSA undertook a review of all annual meeting policies this year, and the siting policy was included in this review at the request of the Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and the Transgendered. The Annual Meeting Review Committee, chaired by Joan Tronto, recommended the existing, city-based, policy continue. Their report said:

1. Non-discriminatory siting. APSA should continue its current practice which permits us to terminate an agreement that abridges the civil rights of APSA members.

Rationale: The current language in the termination section of our standard contract reads: 10.02 APSA has selected [name of city] as a site of its annual meeting in light of the city's anti-discrimination record. APSA reserves the right of termination of this agreement, without penalty or liability, if the government of the city in which the hotel is located establishes or enforces laws that, in the estimation of APSA, abridge the civil rights of any APSA member on the basis of gender, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, marital status, physical handicap, disability, or religion.



While some members and groups within APSA have asked us to go further in affirming particular policies, this language gives us sufficient latitude to protect the Association's interests and to safeguard the rights and dignity of members. Moreover, we felt any larger change in this policy was a matter for the Council, not for us.

4) What did the APSA Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and the Transgendered in the Profession (LGBT Committee) propose? In a July 12, 2007 memorandum to the Council, the LGBT Committee proposed a new siting resolution that reads:

Whereas the American Political Science Association would never hold its annual meeting in a state that allocated marriage rights on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity, the APSA shall not hold its national meeting in any state that, in its constitution, allocated marriage rights on the basis of gender or sexual orientation.

The resolution included information indicating that this provision would prevent holding the APSA meeting in 26 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The documentation included with the resolution showed also that at least another 19 states have similar statutory restrictions limiting marriage to one man and one woman, including many states in which APSA regular holds its meetings. (Only Massachusetts issues marriage licenses to same-sex couples – the remaining states do not allow marriage but do allow different kinds of civil unions.) The LGBT Committee did not extend its petition to the states with statutory restrictions – explaining separately that they felt these states had greater potential to change policy since the provision was not constitutionally grounded.

The Committee memo also indicated they wished the principle in the petition to apply to siting of other APSA meetings such as the Teaching and Learning Conference as well as the Annual Meeting.

5) What action did the APSA Council take at its Chicago meeting in Fall of 2007? The APSA Council discussed the report from the Annual Meeting Review Committee and the proposal from the LGBT Committee, and accepted its recommendation that there not be a “larger change” in the policy at this time. The Council asked the LGBT Committee to fine-tune their proposed language for changing this policy. Matters for further consideration include the timing of the impact of this policy, its implications for APSA’s smaller meetings as well as larger ones, further interpretation of its application to states with constitutional bans but not to those with statutory bans, and other issues.

6) When did APSA select New Orleans as a conference city for 2012? APSA signed its contract in 2003 to hold its annual meeting in New Orleans. The Louisiana constitutional prohibition on same sex marriage was not adopted by the voters until September 14, 2004 – a year after we had contracted to site the Annual Meeting in the State.

7) Why did APSA select New Orleans as a conference city for 2012? Few cities in the South have the characteristics and configuration of space appropriate for the APSA meeting – mainly just Atlanta and New Orleans. We had not selected a southern site in a long time and previous meetings in Atlanta had seen a 14% decline in attendance. In 2003 the only other option in the South that met our configuration and space requirements was New Orleans, a location that had been acceptable previously to the Lesbian and Gay Caucus.

8) What would happen if APSA sought to terminate its contract and to move the meeting? In terms of our contracting with meeting hotels, we would face three kinds of consequences. First is the risk of financial loss from breaking the New Orleans contract. Our anti-discrimination clause is untested and framed to refer to city actions not state actions. Most likely we would be sued and our claims would be tested in court. APSA will require legal counsel to advise us about the legal grounds for terminating the contract, and what our likely liability would be.

In the worst case, we could face extreme financial damages compensating the hotel for the sleeping room revenue the hotel would have expected had the meeting occurred.  The legal claim that we could terminate the contract in a state with a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage because civil rights of our members are violated is untested. A further question is whether our legal position is weakened if we terminated a contract in a state with a constitutional ban and then moved to a state with a state statutory ban. APSA will continue to explore these issues.

Second, we would need to find another location. It would be difficult to move the meeting until the legal interpretation of our policy was settled, which could be some time. With a short lead time, it is likely we would face higher costs. And we’d have not had a meeting in the South for many years.

Third, our ability to sign good contracts in the future would be harmed, given a record of having moved two meetings in recent years. This would result in higher costs for members and less options for sites for many years.

9) What are the implications for APSA to adopt a provision about marriage rights? The APSA Constitution says the Association “will not commit its members on questions of public policy nor take positions not immediately concerned with its direct purpose [to encourage the study of Political Science…]” 2

As a rule, this prevents the Association from taking a position on most policy matters. However, if a public policy prevents a member from attending a conference safely, conveniently, and equally, the policy issue may become a legitimate Association concern. For instance, discriminatory lodging policies would certainly impede participation at the meeting, and would be a legitimate policy concern of the Association. A general reason that APSA has based its anti-discrimination policy for annual meeting sites at the level of policies in the city is that such policies can be expected to have an immediate, proximate influence on participation.

In evaluating the proposal that APSA consider state constitutional provisions about marriage rights, one set of questions then arises as to whether this reaches beyond the level of committing members on questions of public policy. One claim has been that gay partners, particularly with children, might find themselves at risk in a state that did not recognize their legal relationship, if it were necessary to make, for example, emergency medical decisions.

Louisiana jurists did attempt to speak to this, when the state constitutional amendment was reviewed and found constitutional by the state supreme court. T he Chief Justice of the Court, Pascal F. Calogero, Jr. wrote:

“I wish to reiterate the majority’s observations, at note 31, concerning the impact of this decision on property and contract rights of unmarried couples. Nothing in the majority opinion would prohibit an unmarried couple from contracting to be co-owners of property, from designating each other agents authorized to make critical end of life decisions, or from leaving property to each other through wills. The majority opinion does not disturb or impair the fundamental contract and property rights possessed by all individuals, be they homosexual or heterosexual, married or unmarried." 3

APSA then may wish to inquire as to the actual civil rights record of the city of New Orleans on LGBT issues, particularly since the amendment was passed.

The APSA constitution tempers the prohibition against our taking positions on matters of public policy by adding: But the Association nonetheless actively encourages in its membership and its journals, research in and concern for significant contemporary political and social problems and policies, however controversial and subject to partisan discourse in the community at large these may be.

10) What is the history of APSA’s moving its Annual Meeting? Site selection for the Annual Meeting has always been constrained, and freedom of choice more imagined than real. Following APSA’s cancellation of its Chicago meeting in protest over the ERA vote, the settlement between APSA and the Hilton Corporation contractually bound APSA for 10 years to meeting only in cities having a Hilton Hotel. For many members, the Annual Meeting has come to mean the Washington, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, and New Orleans Hiltons.

As the size of the meeting grew, APSA stayed within the contractual commitment to Hilton Hotels in major cities by adding non-Hilton hotels that supplied meeting as well as sleeping rooms. In San Francisco, Washington, Atlanta, New Orleans, and New York, the Annual Meeting functionally became a co-headquarters meeting.

Once the Hilton contract expired, the Association was free to solicit bids and contract with other hotel chains. In the face of competitive bidding, the Marriott and Sheraton chains more often than not have offered more favorable terms than the Hilton chain. The opening up to other hotels expanded the number of cities that could be considered for conventions, though other forces worked to limit choice. Boston and Philadelphia were added to the list of potential sites because, though lacking in Hilton facilities, adequate space could be found at a Marriott or Sheraton or both.

In 2005, APSA exercised a provision in its contract relating to labor actions that might prevent the meeting from proceeding effectively, and moved from San Francisco to Philadelphia. This move did not incur legal or financial consequences because of the performance clause in the APSA contract designed to handle unexpected events that might jeopardize the meeting. The clause reads:

10.01 Performance

Neither party shall be responsible for any failure of performance due to acts of god, war, government regulation, disaster, labor disputes and strikes, civil disorder, curtailment of transportation facilities, shortage of commodities or supplies to be furnished by the {hotel name}, or other emergencies making it inadvisable, illegal or impossible to provide the facilities or to hold the meeting in the hotel or city as originally planned. It is provided that this agreement may be terminated for any one or more of such reasons by written notice from one party to the other.

[a] The Hotel shall provide APSA written notification of pending labor contract terminations or changes.

[b] The Hotel shall advise APSA of city-wide conditions that would affect the meeting, especially strikes of public transportation and safety workers and renovation of transportation services and routes.

The San Francisco hotel could very well have challenged the clause. It is impossible to document, but there was a built-up trust between the hotel and APSA due to reliability of the Association’s past performance that certainly worked in APSA’s favor.

11) What other steps is APSA taking now? APSA has deferred making any future annual meeting siting decisions while these issues raised are addressed. Decisions about the Teaching and Learning Conference are needed on an annual basis. We will make these decisions on a case-by-case basis with wide consultation .

The Council, at its August meeting, asked for further study and recommendations from the Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and the Transgendered in the Profession and from the Annual Meeting Committee, and is itself framing a number of questions regarding whether lesbian and gay partners can have their civil rights to make emergency decisions respected the specific legal vulnerabilities in various cities where we meet.

1 a. Contracts for meetings are signed 4-5 years out, sometimes longer, to secure a particular site; and multiple-year contracts are sought to secure concessions and lower rates.

b. Selecting Region. There is a longstanding practice that the meeting should rotate through regions as well as return to Washington, D.C. every five years unless the cost of doing so are unreasonable. There is not a fixed rotation to the regional representation so that possible sites in different regions can compete for the meeting. The selection of the region also allows for movement between cities within a region if possible.

c. First-Tier Cities. The Council has affirmed that the meeting should be held in first-tier cities, i.e. major metropolitan areas such as Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, etc. The cities also are also major air hubs to facilitate travel to and from the meeting. The cities offer variety of cultural experiences and broad range of restaurants.

(1). Cities we’ve customarily used are Washington, DC, Boston, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, New York.

(2). Cities also used: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Denver (no longer big enough), Toronto.

(3). Capacity. A city must provide sufficient meeting rooms (75+) and exhibit halls, and sufficient sleeping rooms (in 2007 the room block on peak night committed for 3375 attendees for a total meeting attendance of 6925). The city must also be able to provide an all-space hold on space from Wednesday through Sunday unless the Association agrees to release the space. Hotel groups within a city are encouraged to compete with each other.

e. Cost. The hotels competing for the meeting must offer low rates. The meeting has remarkably low rates aided by its meeting history and the timing of the meeting.

2 The full language is:

1. It shall be the purpose of this association to encourage the study of Political Science, including Political Theory, Political Institutions, Politics, Public Law, Public Administration, and International Relations.

2. The Association as such is nonpartisan. It will not support political parties or candidates. It will not commit its members on questions of public policy nor take positions not immediately concerned with its direct purpose as stated above. But the Association nonetheless actively encourages in its membership and its journals, research in and concern for significant contemporary political and social problems and policies, however controversial and subject to partisan discourse in the community at large these may be. The Association shall not be barred from adopting resolutions or taking such other action as it deems appropriate in support of academic freedom and of freedom of expression by and within the Association, the political science profession, and the university, when in its judgment such freedom has been clearly and seriously violated or is clearly and seriously threatened.

3 The source is available at http://www.lasc.org/opinions/2005/04ca2477.opn.pdf

 

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