Publication Date

February 1, 1994

The AHA Council has concluded that it will not hold the Association's January 1995 annual meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, because of the recent referendum in that city that eliminates sexual orientation as a basis for protection against discrimination. On November 2, 1993, Cincinnati voters amended the city's charter to bar the city council from enacting or enforcing laws that give equal legal protection to lesbian, gay, or bisexual citizens in seeking employment, housing, and public accommodations.

The first call for relocation of the 1995 meeting came on November 7–8, when the AHA's Research Division passed a resolution asking the Executive Committee of the Council to take action in response to the referendum earlier that week (see Perspectives, December 1993, page 3). On December 4, the 1995 Program Committee also called for relocation of the meeting. The Association’s Committee on Women Historians and the Coordinating Committee on Women in the Historical Profession/Conference Group on Women’s History, an affiliated society, followed suit shortly thereafter. Grassroots support for relocation also surfaced in late November and early December: The Committee on Lesbian and Gay History, another affiliated society of the AHA, and a group of historians at Rutgers University circulated petitions urging a boycott of Cincinnati and secured signatures of active members by December 15 sufficient to place their resolutions on the agenda of the Association’s annual business meeting. Meanwhile, the AHA Council asked staff to assess the potential costs of canceling existing contracts, consulted with legal counsel regarding the extent of liability, and reviewed correspondence and other petitions submitted by members regarding the issue. Within that context, the Council on January 6 approved by a vote of nine to three the following resolution:

The Association will not hold its 1995 annual meeting in Cincinnati, and it will cover any resulting liabilities through a package of voluntary contributions and dues and other fee increases.

In taking this action, the AHA Council reaffirmed its longstanding commitment to human rights and opposition to discrimination in all forms. The Cincinnati voters' action was similar to that taken in 1992 by Colorado voters, in opposition to which AHA President Louise Tilly, on behalf of the Council, wrote to Colorado Governor Roy Romer on January 12, 1993. She wrote: "The American Historical Association deplores all acts of discrimination against minorities' or any group's enjoyment of their right to protection against discrimination and finds the action by Colorado voters repugnant and worthy of condemnation." In deciding to relocate the 1995 meeting, the Council reaffirmed this position through the adoption of the following policy statement:

It is the policy of the American Historical Association not to hold its annual meetings in locations where its members would be subject to discrimination on the basis of age, gender, marital status, national origin, physical ability, race, religion, or sexual orientation under state or city laws, and the Association will implement this policy in its negotiations for annual meeting sites.

At the business meeting of the membership on January 8, those present voted to commend the Council for its action on Cincinnati and to endorse the general policy statement. The Council announced at that time the formation of a committee to solicit voluntary contributions to defray costs entailed by the cancellation. Retiring Councilmember Blanche Wiesen Cooke has agreed to chair the committee, about which there will be further news in the March issue of this newsletter.

Having notified the Cincinnati hotels of this action, staff members are now negotiating with hotels in Chicago and New York and expect to finalize a new site for the 1995 meeting by the first of February.

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