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by Loren G. Edelstein | June 01, 2016

M&C's June 2016 survey addressed a hot topic: Should legislation recently passed in North Carolina and Mississippi, which some believe allows discrimination against the LGBT community, affect  an organization's decision to meet in those states? Planners expressed strong opinions on both sides of the issue. Many also added their own thoughtful comments on this topic. Here's what they had to say.

• I submit that one could find some law in nearly every jurisdiction in the country that is objectionable. Do we boycott everywhere? Those who boycott Mississippi or North Carolina but not Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Cuba, etc. are hypocrites.

• It is not the business of businesses to make political statements that might affect the profitability of an organization or its stakeholders.

• As always, what should be taken into consideration is what any organization has declared is its mission/vision, and what is and isn't congruent to that.

• Groups willing to cancel out conferences and meetings due to this law should not be concerned over politics outside their own state. This is a state's-rights law. States should not succumb to outside pressure from groups outside of their voting constituents.

• I don't see how a law protecting the religious rights of a society would affect where I choose to hold a meeting. This law came into being by discriminatory acts inflicted on that society by some of the LGBT community.

• If any of your LGBT attendees become ill or involved in an accident, they could be refused treatment by hospitals and medical workers in Mississippi and North Carolina. What would that do to your company when it hits national news? Not to mention videos of your attendees being turned away from restaurants or hotels going viral.

• Your survey is written from the perspective that these laws are wrong. Not all meeting planners or individuals believe they are wrong. These laws may influence some to meet in those places.

• The press is overplaying this. Read the bill. It only refers to public places, not private hotels or businesses, which can designate and provide any signage they desire.

• In addition to planner preference and influence, many of these decisions are made by the organizations holding the meeting. The organization's purpose, mission or attendees may greatly influence things if this is an important issue or not. However, I can't imagine meeting in a place that I know could discriminate against some of my attendees. For instance, I would never meet in a non-ADA-compliant facility.

• We also avoid countries with anti-Semitic policies.

• We are a very large company that prides itself on being diverse and inclusive. Holding meetings in locations with laws legalizing discrimination poses a reputational risk for us and would not support our company values.

• It would be helpful for there to be an easily accessible list of states that have laws in place that might be offensive to meeting attendees (LGBT or other laws, such as restrictions on ability to carry a firearm, etc.).

• I don't normally take politically charged topics into consideration, and we have no overtly LGBT members or attendees. However, my personal feeling is that such laws are symptomatic and allow citizens to feel empowered to discriminate at will.

• I object to the wording of question #3. The use of the expression "limiting the rights of" is prejudicial and biased. Maybe I believe that the law protects those who want to be in the bathrooms with their own genders -- not people who simply "identify" as that gender. I am weary, frankly, of 1.2 percent of the population determining what people can and cannot do with their businesses.

• While states have a right to a degree of legislative autonomy, it is when they cross paths with basic individual human rights that there is a problem.

• For question #6 [about willingness to incur penalties in face of law an organization doesn't agree with]: Our attorneys would seek relief from such charges, since the conditions associated with the contract have changed. And properties (and their owners) that do not offer such relief will not be used in future.

• We don't pick and choose by politics, period. We advocate for our members' interests and leave others to do so for their own constituencies.

• In this day and age I don't understand why we are not treating all as equals. It's a shame.

• It just does not matter. Only those who are running away from real problems like hunger and blight are running with this.

• If a state has unconstitutional laws they are putting into place, then why should organizations have to pay a cancellation fee? It sounds unconstitutional to me.

• The LGBT measures are just some of many laws that organizations should take into consideration. Women's rights is another issue that should influence destinations. 

• I find it disturbing that we are even considering this. What if a state passes legislation that prohibits public worship or cohabitation or refuses to have a Muslim temple? I believe that as long as a meeting remains focused on its mission/purpose, regardless of what laws are enacted in the state the meeting is held, that's all that an organization should be concerned with. Stick to the issues of your conferences/meetings, not to the issues of the state.

• The National Association of Black and White Men Together (nabwmt.org) has enshrined a statement of purpose that plainly is in opposition to anti-gay and racial discrimination. This includes bias in relation to transgendered individuals and those with and HIV/AIDS. Therefore, within the bounds of practicality, our organization must consider legislative acts like the ones in discussion. 

• Everyone should be treated equally.

• Do these laws actually limit LGBT rights, or grant freedom to local businesses to make their own choices? It's a big difference.

• If a state has discriminatory laws, then why should we have to pay to cancel meetings there? It seems like we're rewarding illegal and inappropriate behaviors.

• Our organization respects all people as the same, as individuals. They appreciate the respect from the feedback I get from them.

• There are certain states and municipalities that we won't do business in nor travel to due to their anti-LGBT laws. We have let every single sales person who has called on us know why.

• This is a very biased survey. It should be presented unbiasedly.

• This is a complex situation, far more than reflected in the questions, and includes issues such as an organization's policies, products and reputation.

• There are enough nondiscriminatory laws on the books. They don't need additional protections. North Carolina was correct in HB2!

• Since we are a citywide and have to plan years in advance, it makes it difficult for us to change meeting locations. We would never knowingly plan our convention in a city with anti-LGBT laws.

• Both sides have their rights, and I do not think there is a definite correct answer.

• Our company opposes discrimination in most any form.

• As meeting professionals, it is our duty to ensure all of our attendees feel safe, comfortable, and welcomed in the communities in which we plan meetings and events. We are actively avoiding both of these states in bookings at the moment, and are continuing to monitor other states where similar controversial laws are being considered. Fortunately, our meeting-planner team is able to influence destinations quite easily, so we'll continue to share with our senior leaders these states that are not welcoming.

• If I am going to not schedule a meeting because of state/local laws, then I also need to look at all other aspects of business dealing to make sure I am taking a stand for LGBT rights in one area but not supporting discrimination in other areas.

• While we won't impose our political/social/moral beliefs on our clients, we can still draw lines on recommending venues in areas where we feel human rights are violated. This goes way beyond LGBT rights, especially with our international meetings.

• I'm disappointed to see articles claiming these are discriminatory laws against the LGBT community rather than what they actually are -- reiterating existing constitutional rights and protecting the privacy and safety of all people.

• Our primary concern is to treat every attendee with respect and fairness. The rights of all people must be protected, and no group should receive considerations that are inconsistent with those granted to the general population.

• State rights are more important than most, so it is up to each state as to what it wants to do.

• I'm not a believer in what they feel they are entitled to. I think that this country is screwed up by giving in to too many entitlements.

• I make meeting plans constantly, and the laws of each state have no cause or effect on the meetings.

• Is this not a matter of pushing an agenda? There is a gauge of our physical sexual identity, and it is exposed in a restroom, so let that be our guide. Ask this question: For meetings where attendees share sleeping rooms, should it be mandated that attendees be allowed to choose their own sexual identity and room with whatever sex they feel aligned with?

• There is a lot of misinformation about LGBT, religious freedom and bathroom rights.

• It's unfortunate nearly every decision we make is becoming politically motivated. Employees and vendors shouldn't suffer loss of hours/employment because of decisions beyond their control.

• Why harm working people by canceling events?

• Freedom of association means freedom to do business or not with whomever you choose for any reason.

• We cannot let politics interfere with what is best for our company.

• I'm a Christian.

• We have built our own conference centers in certain states, so we do not have the flexibility to not meet in a state where we have a center.

• Most of my clients have significant numbers of members that have been discriminated against. Therefore, we have in our contracts language allowing us to cancel without damages when these draconian measures get passed. We need to move forward not backward. I have many friends in Charlotte [N.C.] who will be hurting, both due to the discrimination and the lost business, until this attack on human decency is ended.

• Discrimination in any form is wrong, especially when it is engraved into the law of any type of government.

• Many states have unfair and biased laws regarding nationality. Meetings have continued to take place in these cities regardless of things like waving the Confederate flag, etc.

• Do not condemn an entire state and its citizens based on legislative actions.

• Since the law was passed in North Carolina we have canceled four meetings and decided not to expand our office there.