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Law Professors to React to Threatened AALS Boycott

Several groups of law professors have threatened to boycott the meeting site of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) because the owner of the conference venue, the San Diego Manchester Grand Hyatt, donated $125,000 to an initiative to outlaw same-sex marriage in California, reports The National Law Journal. The four groups -- the Society of American Law Teachers, the Legal Writing Institute, the AALS Section on Legal Writing Research and Reasoning and the AALS Section on Teaching Methods -- plan to hold their events elsewhere, and members will not attend any AALS activities held at the Manchester Grand Hyatt. According to Louis Sirico, chairman of the AALS Section on Legal Writing, Research and Reasoning, the boycott is a "matter of principle ... we just don't believe in this kind of discrimination."

But as law professors know better than anyone, every position has another side. And out in the blogosphere, those professors opposed to, or critical of, the boycott have the upper hand. 

At Legal Ethics Forum, Andrew Perlman disagrees with the boycott, because of the nature of the issue of same-sex marriage. Perlman writes that reasonable minds can disagree over whether same-sex marriage should be legalized, and therefore, he is not comfortable boycotting a business because of its owner's position on this topic. Perlman's post has generated a good deal of comment and discussion.

Other law professors have been harsher in their criticism. Professor Larry Ribstein asks a bunch of good questions such as why the boycott is limited to a single hotel rather than the entire company and its shareholders and whether the boycott will really hurt hotel employees far more than the owner. He also wonders whether students would feel comfortable "expressing an anti-same-sex marriage view if they knew that the teacher couldn't stand to stay at a hotel owned by somebody who opposed same sex marriage."

Professor Bainbridge was moved to action by the boycott, writing this open letter to Carl Monk, president of AALS, asking the organization to oppose the boycott. Citing other bloggers, Bainbridge expresses concern about the precedent that the boycott may set:

As blogger Tom Smith asks, if the AALS is going to boycott the hotel on such flimsy grounds, why not just kick those law professors who disagree with same sex marriage out of the AALS? “That would certainly make a statement about gay marriage, and would actually be within the jurisdiction, so to speak, of the AALS, which is all about law professors, not hoteliers.”

The question is not trivial. Blogger Greg Sisk asks: “Does this now mean that a member of the Legal Writing Institute or these AALS sections who is opposed to same-sex marriage is no longer a member in good standing?

What do you think? Is the boycott justified -- or, as Ribstein's wife wonders, do these law professors simply not have enough to do?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on August 6, 2008 at 05:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

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