Monday, February 9, 2009
Bay Area LGBT Lawyers Threaten to Picket State Bar Meeting
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
An organization representing gay lawyers in the San Francisco Bay Area will picket the 2009 State Bar Annual Meeting if the site is not moved from the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel, its co-chairs said Friday.
In separate interviews, Rebecca Prozan and Dan Dean of Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom said they will boycott the convention and work with legal, gay, labor, and other groups to organize as large a demonstration as they can muster to protest the fact that the event is taking place at a hotel owned by a key financial backer of the ban on same-sex marriages.
BALIF describes itself as “the nation’s oldest and largest association of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons.”
In a letter to State Bar President Holly Fujie and the State Bar Board of Governors, which Dean said he hand-delivered Friday to the State Bar office in San Francisco, BALIF board members said they were “beyond shocked and disappointed that The State Bar of California will not move its 2009 Annual Meeting from the Manchester Grand Hyatt, which is owned by Mr. Doug Manchester who donated $125,000 to Yes on Proposition 8.”
The letter urged the State Bar to reconsider its position on the location for the event, which is slated for Sept. 10 through Sept. 13.
Other groups, including the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, the Beverly Hills Bar Association, the Bar Association of San Francisco, and the Los Angeles County Bar Association delegation to the Conference of Delegates of California Bar Associations—which is scheduled to meet at the same location at the same time as the State Bar—have also protested the location, but there have been no previous threats of demonstrations.
Fujie, who was to meet with leaders of the Conference of Delegates Saturday to discuss the situation, has expressed sympathy with those criticizing the location but has taken the position that the State Bar cannot break longstanding contractual commitments. The cost of doing so, she said, would have to be borne by the members, in possible violation of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibits the State Bar from using mandatory dues money for political action.
Dean said he was unimpressed with that argument. “We do not see this as a political issue,” he commented.
In their letter, the BALIF members wrote:
“Why the State Bar wants to do business with a person who substantially helped pass this hateful and discriminatory proposition is beyond our comprehension. We expect more from the State Bar....
“We have every confidence that many other groups and individuals will join us in our boycott and in our fight against the State Bar’s unjust decision.”
The group also invited bar leaders to attend its annual dinner on March 6 “to explain to the audience of 700 BALIF members and friends—all of whom will be encouraged to boycott the Annual Meeting—why you would risk severely negative financial repercussions by continuing the State Bar’s support for a financier of hatred and bigotry in our state.”
In another development Friday, San Diego County Bar Association President Jerrilyn Malana offered the organization’s services “as a resource” for those who wish to attend the convention but do not wish to patronize the hotel.
“In fact, we have already reserved meeting rooms at our Bar Center for the State Bar’s use during the Annual Meeting should you wish to consider using our facilities,” Malana wrote in a letter to Fujie. “We have also contacted other facilities in San Diego to explore the availability of alternative meeting space.”
Malana added that her group—whose board voted unanimously to oppose Proposition 8, she noted—“want[s] very much for the State Bar Annual Meeting to be successful in San Diego, and to have maximum participation by the CDCBA at the meeting.”
Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company