More on the AALS "Boycott" of Hotel Because of Owner's Contribution to Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Ballot Initiative:

Here's a statement from three USD law professors condemning the action (which, to my knowledge, consists of the AALS's not breaching its contract to reserve a block of guest rooms, but moving conference events from the hotel):

Statement on the AALS “Boycott”

1. The matter of same-sex marriage is currently a hotly debated issue in the United States, with complicated cultural, religious, and political dimensions. Americans, and presumably American law professors, hold a variety of views on this issue.

2. As various scholars and commentators have pointed out, legal recognition of same-sex marriage is likely to have a significant impact on some religious or religiously-affiliated institutions. The matter thus has potentially important implications for religious freedom. These are also the subject of a variety of views among Americans and, presumably, American law professors.

3. The Association of American Law Schools is a professional association. Its purpose is to promote the interests of law schools and the legal academy. In performing this function, the AALS can and should facilitate debate and expression among legal academics on a wide range of issues, including same-sex marriage. The AALS itself, however, is not and should not be a partisan political organization working to advance particular positions on issues about which Americans and American law professors are divided. Groups or individuals who attempt to commandeer the organization in behalf of contested political causes undermine the organization and its ability to serve the professional purposes for which it exists.

4. There has not been, to our knowledge, any careful or sustained discussion within the AALS seeking to ascertain the views of member schools or law professors or to determine whether any consensus exists regarding either the issue of same-sex marriage or the question of appropriate political or economic action by the AALS with respect to the issue.

5. In this situation, the recent announcement by the AALS of what is widely viewed and described as a “boycott” of a hotel based on an owner’s support of California’s Proposition 8 (which supports traditional marriage) reflects an ill-conceived and inappropriate action by the AALS’s leadership. Although the announcement has generated considerable confusion, it clearly seems calculated to put the AALS’s prestige and economic weight behind opposition to Proposition 8, and thus in effect to place the AALS on record as supporting same-sex marriage. Given the AALS’s purposes, this action is inappropriate and presumptuous.

6. The AALS should refrain from such inappropriate actions, now and in the future. It is likewise inappropriate for individual sections of the AALS, organized to promote particular subject matter interests (such as legal writing), to purport to speak for their own section members on political issues.

7. Individual law professors may wish to consider declining to attend the AALS conference this year as a way of expressing their disapproval of the AALS’s inappropriate decision.

Larry Alexander
Maimon Schwarzschild
Steven D. Smith
[all from the law school at the] University of San Diego (for purposes of identification only)

PLEASE NOTE: The purpose of this Statement is emphatically not to take or endorse any position on the merits of Proposition 8, but rather to call attention to what we believe is a deviation by the AALS from its proper function -– a deviation that is ultimately prejudicial to the organization and the interests of legal academics and institutions. We invite others who share our concerns, whatever their views may be with regard to Proposition 8 or same-sex marriage, to join us in encouraging the AALS and its leadership to promote the professional interests and purposes for which the organization exists.

I'm inclined to agree that academic organizations generally shouldn't boycott businesses because of the views the owners express, or the causes those owners support. The broader question of the propriety of boycotts by organizations is pretty complex, but I'm tentatively inclined to think that academic organizations have a special professional obligation not to discriminate based on people's speech or other political activity, with regard to outsiders as well as with regard to scholars and students. (I talk about this broader question in some measure in Part II of this article, though that doesn't cover the special professional duties, if there are some, of academic organizations.)