The AALS and Political Boycotts:

David notes efforts to organize an American Association of Law Schools boycott of a hotel whose owner, Doug Manchester, has contributed money to an anti-gay marriage referendum campaign. This raises the interesting question of whether the AALS should be engaging in political boycotts at all. My view is that it shouldn't.

The AALS is an organization that is supposed to promote legal education and academic research in a politically neutral way. Taking stands on controversial political issues such as gay marriage is inconsistent with the organization's mission of promoting a free exchange of ideas and education that includes a wide range of viewpoints. If the AALS has an official position in favor of gay marriage (which is what a boycott would amount to), it cannot be a credible neutral organizer of panels, conferences, and academic research on gay marriage-related questions. The same goes for taking positions on other political issues.

Moreover, if political opposition to gay marriage is so wrong that the AALS should forego any economic relationship with those who engage in it, how can it continue to have Catholic, evangelical Protestant, and Mormon schools as members? When it comes to promoting opposition to gay marriage, the Catholic Church and other religious organizations are much bigger players than Doug Manchester. I don't see how the AALS can shun Manchester as beyond the pale while keeping Notre Dame and Brigham Young as members in good standing.

For what it's worth, I sympathize with the boycotters' objective here. If the state is going to be involved in defining and regulating marriage at all, I believe that it should recognize gay marriage on par with heterosexual marriage. But the AALS is not the right organization to pursue that objective.