Thursday, July 31, 2008

The New Orleans APSA Convention

I find myself torn on the issue of the APSA New Orleans meeting. For those unfamiliar with this issue, the American Political Science Association decided a few years back (prior to Hurricane Katrina) to hold its 2012 annual meeting in NOLA. Then, in 2004, Louisiana's voters passed a particularly egregious version of an anti-same-sex marriage amendment to the state constitution. This amendment not only defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, but it prohibited the recognition of same sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions. (I can't believe this is constitutional, but whatever.) Recently, a group of political scientists has been petitioning APSA's siting committee to move the meeting elsewhere. While APSA decided to change its criteria for siting future meetings, it plans to continue with the New Orleans meeting. There is now movement afoot for a boycott of the 2012 meeting.

I've heard a lot of very thoughtful arguments on both sides of this issue. The unfortunate, but perhaps inevitable, framing of the issue is that it's a choice between gays and poor blacks. That is, holding the convention in NOLA is good for the local economy and pumps much needed money into poorer African American neighborhoods. On the other hand, most of the money we spend on conventions goes to corporate hotels and airlines; political scientists aren't known for their big spending ways.

And I'm persuaded that this is a serious issue for gay and lesbian political scientists. While New Orleans, as I understand it, is a pretty welcoming city, there are serious legal issues that same sex couples face if they visit the state, particularly if they are parents. What would happen if a conference attendee were injured? Would his or her partner be allowed a hospital visit? Would custody issues arise? I don't normally consider whether I'm waiving any rights to attend an academic conference, but that would be a serious consideration for gay or lesbian attendees at the 2012 convention. As another political scientist wrote, just having to make such decisions is so denegrating to gays and lesbians that APSA should not be asking them to subject themselves to it as a price for professional advancement.

What do you think?

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