APA Moves Meetings From Virginia

Anti-Gay Law Causes Some to Have Second Thoughts

The Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel


The Hyatt Regency
Crystal City Hotel

Perhaps the “Virginia is for lovers” slogan doesn’t refer to all lovers. Earlier this year, the Washington, D.C.-based American Psychological Association relocated two of its governance meetings, of about 100 attendees each, from Arlington, Va., across the Potomac to Washington, D.C., in the midst of concerns over the state’s Affirmation of Marriage Act, passed in 2004, which prevents gay unions from being recognized.

In a statement, the APA’s board of directors said the association’s Committee on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Con-cerns feared that, in a medical emergency, hospitals might refuse to honor documents executed by gay and lesbian couples.

The move might be a harbinger of more conflict to come: This November, a contentious amendment to the state constitution barring gay unions will go before voters.

Executives at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, where the meetings were to be held, declined to comment. A spokesperson from the Virginia Tourism Corp., based in Richmond, said the VTC doesn’t take sides on legislative issues and added, “I understand they’ve made this decision based on a political point of view, but the tourism industry in Virginia is a very welcoming one and has been welcoming people of all
persuasions for many years.”

Clinton Anderson, staff liaison of the APA’s CLGBC office, denied the action was motivated by politics. “There is no question that we are actively involved in support-ing the legal benefits of civil marriages for same-sex couples,” he said. “But this action was not taken as a way of furthering those policy concerns.”

The APA is not the first group to pull out of an area due to local laws, whether they affect homosexuals, gun control or labor unions. Cincinnati, for instance, lost eight conventions in the 1990s because of an anti-gay statute (repealed in 2004), and last year, the Fairfax, Va.-based National Rifle Association relocated its 2007 annual meeting from Columbus, Ohio, to St. Louis, after Columbus passed a ban on assault weapons.

Some meeting planners consider legislation as a factor in choosing a meeting destination. In a June 2006 M&C survey of 348 readers, 21 percent claimed local laws regarding guns or same-sex marriage would affect site selection.