AALS Responds to Boycott:

In response to calls for a boycott of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego because its owner gave substantial contributions to California's anti-gay-marriage ballot initiative, the Executive Committee of the AALS has released the following statement.

The AALS 2009 Annual Meeting will take place January 6-10, 2009, in San Diego, California. Several years ago the Association booked rooms at the San Diego Marriott and the Manchester Grand Hyatt. In the last few weeks there have been suggestions that the Association should boycott the Hyatt because its owner has contributed money to a ballot initiative designed to overturn the California Supreme Court's May decision in favor of same-sex marriage. In addressing this issue, the Executive Committee has sought to ensure that the Annual Meeting serves the needs of all participants to the maximum extent possible given our contractual obligations to the hotels.

Our contracts with the hotels provide that each hotel reserve a block of guest rooms, and leave to the AALS the choice of where to locate the AALS Registration, Exhibit Hall, Section Programs, Presidential Programs, and House of Representatives meetings. We will honor our contracts with both hotels, and we have exercised our option to hold all AALS events at the Marriott to ensure the maximum participation by our members.

Law schools and other organizations hosting meetings and receptions will be contacted soon by an AALS meetings manager regarding the location of their events. Faculty and staff at law schools will soon receive housing information and you will be able to choose your individual hotel room on a first-come, first-served basis in accordance with the usual housing procedures.

Professor Bainbridge thinks the AALS "caved" to the boycott organizers, while others are not so sure. Dave Hoffman offers a translation: "we agree with you that merely contributing to the SSM amendment is beyond the pale, but we (sadly) can't breach our contracts." To which Nato Oman offers this amendment: "the cost of our moral turpitude in staying at a Hilton is less than the damages that we might be required to pay in the event of breach." Paul Caron rounds up more responses here.

Personally, I am a bit confused by the whole thing. The AALS statement seems to indicate that a boycott would be justified if it did not requiring breaching its contracts. This would explain the compromise position — keeping a contract with the offending hotel while attempting to accommodate boycott supporters by holding the primary events elsewhere. But here is where the confusion sets in. The purported reason for the boycott is Grand Hyatt owner Doug Manchester's support of the anti-gay-marriage campaign. And yet the other hotel the AALS will be using — the San Diego Marriott — appears to be owned by Doug Manchester as well.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: It seems that Manchester was the developer of the San Diego Marriott, but he sold his interest in 2008, so he is no longer the owner. Details here and here.