Protests Over Gay Rights Greet Historians' Meeting





Tension over gay-rights protests and a depressed job market set a dismal tone at the American Historical Association's annual conference, held here last week. You didn't have to look very hard to spot either drumming protesters or glum-looking graduate students milling outside the Manchester Grand Hyatt.

What's more, attendance was down sharply. The official number for this year's meeting was 4,158, compared with 5,800 at last year's meeting in New York and 5,400 the year before in Washington, D.C.

The "Manchester" in the hotel's name belongs to Douglas F. Manchester, a prominent supporter of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California. That support earned him and his property the ire of gay-rights activists, many of whom were unhappy that the association decided to hold its meeting here despite their calls for a boycott of his hotels. The association argued that breaking its contract with the hotel would cost nearly $800,000—enough, perhaps, to bankrupt the association—and instead chose to send a message by holding a "miniconference" on topics related to same-sex marriage.

Protesters at a Saturday-afternoon demonstration weren't buying it. About 75 activists chanted "boycott" and cheered when Cleve Jones, the well-known gay-rights activist, said his message for the association was that "history is on our side." In an interview, Mr. Jones said the association's decision to hold a session on gay and lesbian history only "added insult to injury." As for the scholars of gay and lesbian history, Mr. Jones said that he was sure they were "well-meaning" but that history would record only that they chose not to honor the boycott....


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