Historians embroiled in present-day battle





Professional historians usually concern themselves with the past, but this week in San Diego they’ll be immersed in one of the most contentious issues of the present — same-sex marriage.

The annual convention of the 125-year-old American Historical Association, held here for the first time, will feature a 15-session “mini-convention” on various aspects of matrimony, including how its definition has evolved through time.

These free meetings, which start today and are open to the public, came about because of where the convention is being held — the Manchester Grand Hyatt on San Diego’s waterfront.

The 1,625-room resort has been the subject of a boycott by gay-rights activists since July 2008. They targeted the hotel after its owner, developer Doug Manchester, contributed $125,000 to Proposition 8, the successful ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage in California.

To prepare for its 2010 conference, the historical association reserved space at the hotel in 2003. A year ago — two months after Proposition 8 had passed — some of the group’s members asked that the boycott be honored.

But canceling would have cost almost $800,000 in reservation fees and penalties, said Arnita Jones, the association’s executive director. “We’ve been around a long time, but our members are college professors, history teachers and librarians, and we aren’t a wealthy organization,” she said....


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