Marquette Warrior: Will the American Political Science Association Cave to Its Gay Lobby?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Will the American Political Science Association Cave to Its Gay Lobby?

We wouldn’t belong to the American Political Science Association except for the fact that membership carries with it a big discount on the registration fee for the annual convention. But it does, so we belong and thus got this e-mail:
Dear Political Science Colleagues at Marquette University:

I write to request your support of a boycott of the American Political Science Association’s 2012 Annual Meeting, currently slated for New Orleans, Louisiana.

In 2004, 78 percent of Louisiana voters (including a majority in Orleans Parish) passed this amendment to their state constitution: “Marriage in the state of Louisiana shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. No official or court of the state of Louisiana shall construe this constitution or any state law to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any member of a union other than the union of one man and one woman. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized.

No official or court of the state of Louisiana shall recognize any marriage contracted in any other jurisdiction which is not the union of one man and one woman.”

This language both limits marriage to different-sex couples and denies to same-sex pairs all “legal incidents” of marriage that arise from civil unions, domestic partnerships, and other familial arrangements. In other words, as a matter of state constitutional law, coupled lesbians and gay men can be nothing other than legal strangers to one another in Louisiana.

In 2005, the APSA’s Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and the Transgendered in the Profession (on which I served from 2004 to 2007) adopted a resolution calling for the Association not to hold conventions in states with constitutional prohibitions of same-sex marriage. That year, the APSA Council forwarded the LGBT Status Committee’s siting resolution to the newly formed Annual Meeting Review Committee for consideration.

This year, the Annual Meeting Review Committee reported that any change in the Association’s conference-siting policy was a matter solely for the Council to determine.

On August 31st, the Council rejected the Status Committee’s resolution.

The APSA’s choice to hold annual meetings in states with constitutional provisions like that of Louisiana impedes the ability of LGBT political scientists to participate in the Association and to progress in the profession.

For instance, the domestic partners and children of LGBT members travel with them to conventions. Lee, my own partner of 12 years, has gone with me to meetings in Chicago and San Francisco. Were I to be hospitalized or otherwise incapacitated while visiting New Orleans in 2012, I would want Lee to make medical and other decisions on my behalf, and vice versa. However, under the Louisiana amendment, we couldn’t do that for each other.

This example isn’t hypothetical. Lee has Type 1 diabetes, and I’ve had to take him to hospital emergency rooms because of his disease. I wouldn’t want to face the question from medical staff in Louisiana, “Are you a member of his family?” In short, the Association’s rejection of the Status Committee’s siting policy makes only heterosexual families uniformly welcome at annual meetings.

The APSA’s posture hits LGBT graduate students and junior faculty with particular force. In 2012, they face the Hobson’s choice of, on the one hand, subjecting themselves and their families to an overtly hostile legal environment while in New Orleans or, on the other hand, not attending the conference and missing its opportunities to interview for jobs and to present papers in order to advance careers.

What is more, the Association established a relevant precedent in the 1970s and ‘80s when it refused to hold conventions in states that hadn’t ratified the federal Equal Rights Amendment. That policy precluded meetings in Chicago, because Illinois never approved the ERA.

Hence, while the APSA was fully prepared a generation ago to battle gender discrimination, the organization isn’t willing today to combat sexual-orientation discrimination with similar resolve. Instead, by selecting New Orleans for an annual meeting, the Association condones the condemnation of same-sex couples to the legal purgatory that Louisiana, and New Orleans itself, authorized in 2004.

In truth, the APSA would never consider New Orleans if the Louisiana Constitution discriminated on the basis of ethnicity, gender, race, or religion as blatantly as it does with regard to sexual orientation. Our national professional organization of political scientists, thus, reinforces the sad reality that explicit governmental discrimination against LGBT Americans remains politically and socially acceptable.

The Status Committee’s resolution eliminates just Atlanta and New Orleans from the cities with convention facilities that have been sufficient in the past to accommodate the Association’s annual gatherings. Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Toronto, and Washington are, and will remain, viable venues for conferences. Surely this list is adequate to suit the organization’s siting needs.

I have faith that the American Political Science Association has the capacity -- and can summon the compassion -- to ensure that all of its members are treated with dignity and respect at annual meetings. I hope that you share my belief. If so, please be kind enough to forward this message with your own statement (e.g., “I support the New Orleans boycott”) to the Association’s President and Executive Director:

Dianne Pinderhughes,
Michael Brintnall,

Please “cc” me at

In addition, if you know members of the APSA Council, please ask them to reconsider their rejection of the Status Committee’s siting resolution. Current Council members include:

Lisa Baldez,
Susan Burgess,
Dennis Chong,
Michael Doyle,
Kerry Haynie,
Arthur Lupia,
Anna Sampaio,
Melissa Williams,

Lastly, please let me know if you’re willing to assist in organizing the boycott.

With your help, we can persuade the Association to relocate the 2012 conference while there’s still time to do so.


P.S. This message is being sent to political scientists at more than 200 colleges and universities across the United States.

Daniel R. Pinello
Professor of Government
John Jay College of Criminal Justice of
The City University of New York

Author of:
Gay Rights and American Law
(Cambridge University Press, 2003)
America’s Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage
(Cambridge University Press, 2006)
Of course, the profession of Political Science has a strong liberal bias, so why wouldn’t the APSA boycott a state that has done something so politically incorrect as limit marriage to opposite sex couples?

Part of a possible answer rests in the APSA Constitution, which says:
1. It shall be the purpose of this association to encourage the study of Political Science, including Political Theory, Political Institutions, Politics, Public Law, Public Administration, and International Relations.

2. The Association as such is nonpartisan. It will not support political parties or candidates. It will not commit its members on questions of public policy nor take positions not immediately concerned with its direct purpose as stated above.
Of course, this language didn’t prevent the APSA from boycotting the State of Illinois when that state failed to embrace the Equal Rights Amendment.

So if the Association blew off its Constitution once to placate the feminists, why not blow it off again to placate the gay lobby?

This, of course, will be a test case to see whether a bunch of liberal academics can act in even a minimally principled way. They didn’t when the issue was the ERA. And they are the kinds of people who think the U.S. Constitution can mean whatever you want it to mean.

But if the APSA placates its internal gay lobby on this issue they will be sending a clear message. It’s well known that political science is a discipline with little intellectual diversity, and what there is is between (say) liberals and leftist radicals, or between old-time democratic socialists and cultural leftists.

But the profession has always maintained that, in spite of this lack of diversity, political scientists can be fair in dealing with contentious public issues, and fair in dealing with students.

But why should anybody believe that if the APSA won’t abide by its own rules?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess what, John, APSA didn't cave. So much for inferences from a single case, eh?

9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a member of the APSA. I am strongly in favor of civil rights for LGBT people. I am also strongly opposed to APSA's proposed boycott. Does this make me a radical leftie, or just sort of leftie?

Of course you find ideological biases where you look from them, just like a certain Senator from Wisconsin found commies where he searched for them. Long story short: our perceptions of biases are almost always reflections of our own biases. Of course, since your biases are correct, true, and just, that's OK.

2:56 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

Long story short: our perceptions of biases are almost always reflections of our own biases.

A poll of APSA Meeting attendees found that over 90% voted for the Democratic presidential candidate.

Is that a biased perception?

Tell us how your colleagues vote!

5:39 PM  

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