Lawyers Boycott Meeting at Manchester

Lawyers Boycott Meeting at Manchester

The State Bar of California's Annual Meeting will convene in San Diego without a slew of LGBT members and allies.

This year's meeting is scheduled to be held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel in San Diego, which is owned by key Proposition 8 proponent Doug Manchester. The hotel magnate gave $125,000 to the campaign to repeal marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples in 2008. After a boycott was launched by several organizations, including Californians Against Hate and Unite Here Local 30, a hotel workers' union, several conferences and meetings were moved to other locations. Manchester has since pledged $25,000 in support of LGBT causes and an additional $100,000 in the form of hotel credits to be used by LGBT organizations for fund-raising events, as reported in May.

Lambda Legal Marriage Project director Jennifer Pizer issued a statement on Wednesday about the decision to boycott this year's conference.

"The bar associations recognize that many of their members will not feel comfortable attending conference activities at the Manchester Hyatt given its owner's extraordinary personal support of the campaign that made gay people and their families unequal under law, and undermined the basic rights of all minority groups in California," she wrote.

Howard Bragman, Manchester's publicist, told Advocate.com on Monday that the boycott is fruitless at this point because of Manchester's donation.

"A boycott is not an end point," he said. "It is a tactic used to get to an end point, and the end point we are trying to achieve is converting people. In the case of Doug Manchester, we've won. He's pledged to never give a nickel to an antigay cause, has given an equal amount to pro-gay causes, and this is now reeking of something that is very mean, vindictive, and inappropriate. Despite Mr. Manchester's donations, what our own community needs to understand is that we lost Prop. 8 because of the decisions we made -- because of the ways we campaigned and didn't campaign. The only way we're ever going to win is by reaching in to the middle to change hearts and minds."

Bragman added that the boycott was less about LGBT rights, and more about the hotel workers trying to unionize. "The union issues and the boycott and the GLBT issues are apples and oranges," he said. "They are two separate issues. We frankly have a boycott that is being funded and designed by people who have motives other than the GLBT community in an effort to unionize the properties."

The meeting will take place from September 10 to 13. Though Lambda Legal will not participate, as it has in recent years, staff attorney Tara L. Borelli will be a featured panelist in a seminar held in a nearby hotel titled "Bias in California After Proposition 8."

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