Volume 15, Number 1, Jan 1993, p.18
Editor's note: This contribution from Glenn Wharton, who was outspoken early on about his decision to boycott Colorado, and the statement from AIC President Paul Himmelstein (a condensed version of a longer letter sent to AIC members) were provided to WAAC Newsletter at my request. --Elizabeth C. Welsh
I don't know. Nor, it seems, does the national leadership in the gay and lesbian community. What we do know is that on November 3rd, the people of Colorado voted 53% to 47% to pass an amendment to their state constitution which revokes existing gay/lesbian/ bisexual civil rights legislation and prohibits the drafting of any new legislation. The amendment reads as follows:
"No Protected Status Based on Homosexual, Lesbian, or Bisexual Orientation. Neither the State of Colorado, through any of its branches or departments, nor any of its agencies, political subdivisions, municipalities or school districts, shall enact, adopt or enforce any statute, regulation, ordinance or policy whereby homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships shall constitute or otherwise be the basis of, or entitle any person or class of persons to have or claim any minority status, quota preferences, protected status or claim of discrimination. This Section of the Constitution shall be in all respects self-executing."
Rage against this legislation has been expressed across the nation. The ACLU and the mayor of Denver, among others, have filed lawsuits challenging the initiative. Many gays, lesbians and their supporters are pinning their hopes on President-elect Clinton, who has stated his support for a national gay civil rights bill. Others are calling for an economic boycott of Colorado and Colorado-made products. Indeed, the American Association of Physicians for Human Rights and other organizations have already canceled upcoming conferences in Colorado. Poet Armistead Maupin, who recently canceled a reading in Denver, stated: "I plan to keep on boycotting the state and urging others to do the same. The voters of Colorado have spoken, and their message is not a pretty one. If their consciences can't be tweaked, maybe their pocket books can." (NY Times, 11-21-92)
Some gay and lesbian leaders are arguing against a boycott. They suggest that its greatest toll would be on cities that have been most supportive of gay rights, such as Denver. An alternative to boycotting would be to visit Colorado and make a lot of noise. This noise could possibly be in the form of a public protest or a letter-writing campaign.
Should WAAC members boycott the AIC conference? It is a difficult decision, and certainly should be made on an individual basis. To some, who are on the job market or have already committed to present papers or organize sessions, there are compelling reasons to attend. Others may feel that an economic boycott is inappropriate.
Whatever personal decisions are made, our anger should be vented against Colorado, not the AIC. The board and staff of the AIC have been placed by circumstances beyond their control in a difficult position. Personally, I will not attend the conference, but I will make a contribution to the AIC to help make up for my absence. For those who wish to attend the conference and make some noise, contact Chris Stavroudis and his co-chairs with your ideas and support. Letters of protest may be written to addresses at the end of this article. In addition, U.S. congressional representatives may be written to encourage federal gay civil rights legislation.Glenn Wharton
The passage of Colorado's Amendment 2 posed a very difficult dilemma for the AIC. Because of the advanced planning necessary to hold our annual meeting, we had signed a contract with the Denver Hyatt three years ago. Since Amendment 2 was passed, 148 AIC members have telephoned, faxed, and written to express concern about our plan to hold the meeting in Colorado. Of that number, 143 requested that the meeting be moved to another location. Some said they would not attend a meeting held in Denver. Others indicated they would attend but would like the AIC to protest in some way. Several questioned whether it was appropriate for AIC to take a stand on this issue.
The AIC staff explored the possibility and consequences of moving the meeting to another state. However, while the Denver Hyatt understood our situation, they would not agree to reduce a penalty ($40,250) for breaking the contract. AIC legal counsel subsequently concluded that, indeed, the contract with the Hyatt necessitated payment of the penalty. The staff also looked at the other financial consequences of moving the meeting, such as the loss of staff time, cash and in-kind contributions raised for the Denver meeting (approximately $10,000), and the cost of notifying appropriate parties about the change (more than 2,500 press releases and brochures had been distributed).
In the end, the Board was faced with three options: (1) move the meeting to another location; (2) go to Denver and do nothing; and (3) go to Denver and do something. On December 3, 1992, the AIC passed the following motion:
The AIC Board deplores the passage of Amendment 2 in Colorado. After considerable discussion and taking into account the concerns expressed by the lesbian and gay community and AIC membership, we move to affirm the decision to hold the 1993 annual meeting in Denver. To protest the affront to social justice inherent in Amendment 2, we will organize appropriate activities in Denver in support of civil rights for all.
The AIC Board made its decision based largely on ethical grounds: we felt it would be more effective to go to Denver and let members actively demonstrate rather than just to participate in an economic boycott. In this decision, we are guided by our work: facing a problem and taking an active role is usually required for successful preservation of works of art as well as human rights. Another matter informing this decision was the fact that Houston, the most likely alternative, does not have a tradition of supporting the civil rights of lesbians and gays, while Denver does. A task force, co-chaired by Chris Stavroudis, Carmen Bria, and Catherine Metzger, has been formed to develop a series of activities to protest passage of this abhorrent amendment.Paul Himmelstein, AIC President
You may wish to write to:Colorado Assoc. of Commerce & Industry