Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Friday, January 16, 2009


Page 1


Beverly Hills Bar Association Objects to Site of State Bar Meeting


By SHERRI M. OKAMOTO, Staff Writer


The Beverly Hills Bar Association has formally objected to the site selected for the annual meeting of the State Bar and Conference of Delegates.

Beverly Hills Bar Association President Nancy Knupfer told the MetNews yesterday that she is sending a letter on behalf of the organization to State Bar President Holly Fujie requesting a change in venue based on the hotel owner’s support of the constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage.

Los Angeles County Bar Association President Dannette E. Meyers said that the delegation members of her organization were discussing “what they want to do” in response to the upcoming meeting at the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego yesterday as well.

Both organizations had submitted amicus letters asking the Supreme Court to review the validity of Proposition 8, which the hotel’s owner, Manchester Financial Group’s Chairman Doug Manchester, reportedly contributed $125,000 to support.

‘Clear’ Position

Knupfer said that her organization’s position on Proposition 8 “has been very clear,” adding that the fact that the amendment passed into law “doesn’t mean that it’s right.”

In her letter to Fujie, a copy of which was provided to the MetNews, Knupfer wrote that her association “views the right of same sex partners to marry as an important issue of civil rights in the continuum of rights gained by American minorities since the Declaration of Independence.”

She noted that the Conference of Delegates had passed a resolution expressing its support for equal marriage rights and its condemnation of Proposition 8 at last year’s conference, and that the Beverly Hills Bar Association delegation had voted in favor of that resolution.

 “Our leaders are dismayed to learn that the State Bar Conference will be held at a location whose ownership—despite supporting the repudiation of basic human rights—would profit from our members,” Knupfer wrote. “The very idea of that would certainly cause pain to many of our members.”

Knupfer added that she personally will not stay at the Manchester hotel and that the association would prefer that its members not stay there or attend any bar-related event, reception, meeting or MCLE courses held there.

The president also voiced concern that many members would boycott the event entirely.

The hotel has been the target of a boycott organized by Californians Against Hate, a non-profit organization devoted to drawing attention to the major donors to the Yes on 8 campaign, since July.

Change Advocated

Los Angeles attorney John J. Duran, a West Hollywood councilman and president of Equality California—which bills itself as the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights and advocacy organization—also advocated for a change in venue.

“I support the boycott of the hotel,” he said, “and I believe that the State Bar should as well.”

Given the controversy surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage and that the Supreme Court has not ruled on the issue, Meyers said that she personally was “really disappointed” that the State Bar “has not taken some strides, at least publicly, to say ‘Let’s work this out.’”

Meyers suggested that the State Bar consider holding the conference of delegates meeting in the nearby convention center, which it had done in the past, or find another location “where the issue isn’t there,” and the owner was “neutral” in the Prop. 8 campaign.

State Bar Deputy Executive Director Robert Hawley explained that the meeting venue was “not something that is going to change quickly,” because “any number of considerations that have to be given to it.”

Hawley said that the State Bar has made, and will make its decisions “based upon business prudence as opposed to any ideological preference, whatever it may be.”

Los Angeles attorney Thomas B. Watson, co-founder of Love Honor Cherish, a pro-same-sex marriage group, said that he had not seen “any recognition from the State Bar to the effect that they actually grasp and understand the seriousness of holding an event at this hotel.”

Watson called for the State Bar to disclose the potential financial impact for moving the conference and every other alterative they have considered.

“It was and remains my firm conviction that it is simply unconscionable to have an event there.,” he said. “That the State Bar apparently believes it is acceptable to do so is a real problem.”

The Global Hyatt Corporation, which manages the hotel, issued a statement yesterday that the “personal donation of $125,000 by a private citizen who happens to be the owner…does not represent Hyatt Hotel Corporation or our views or actions.”  

It maintained that it is “steadfastly committed to diversity in the workplace and welcoming all communities into our hotels,” touting its status as a supporter and partner of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the International Gay Lesbian Travel Association, provision of domestic partnership benefits to its employees, and sponsorship of the San Diego Pride in 2007.

Media representatives for the Manchester Financial Group could not be reached for comment.

Additional holdings of the  San Diego-based corporation, founded in 1970, include the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina, downtown San Diego’s First National Bank building, the La Jolla Bank & Trust Building, the Manchester Business and Research Park, Manchester Executive Centre, Manchester Financial Building, and Grand Del Mar luxury resort and golf course.  It also owns a luxury golf resort and private residence community in McCall, Idaho.

The State Bar and Conference of Delegates meetings are scheduled to take place Sept. 10-13.


Copyright 2009, Metropolitan News Company