The American Society of Association Executives has reacted to legislation adopted by some states or municipalities deemed discriminatory against gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals by adopting its own policies that allow it to discriminate against those destinations when it comes to meeting planning. In an anti-discrimination clause added to the organization’s venue contracts, ASAE defines discriminatory legislation as “force majeure,” which absolves the event sponsor’s responsibility to the property for event cancellation or attendance penalties. Force majeure language in contracts has typically been reserved for situations such as pandemic health emergencies, civil wars, or natural disasters, but association officials say it is no less serious a situation when a destination does not welcome all potential attendees equally. The new clause, officials say, will “protect ASAE against possible discriminatory legislation that might threaten the success of a planned meeting or convention. Associations cannot afford the reputational risk of being associated with or doing business in jurisdictions that are perceived to be discriminatory.”
Among the text of the anti-discrimination clause, it states, “It shall be considered an incident of force majeure, and thus relieve event sponsor of any obligation to property under this agreement, including but not limited to waiver of any cancellation or attrition penalties, and event sponsor will receive in full a refund of any amounts paid to property pursuant to this agreement, if, at any time between the effective date of this agreement and the beginning dates of event sponsor’s event, event sponsor provides written notice to property of cancellation of this agreement based upon any state or local government arm, including a legislature, board or agency in the jurisdiction of the property, having enacted legislation or regulation that has the effect of: 1) repealing existing legal protections or prohibiting the passage of legal protections for subject Individuals; 2) allowing discrimination against subject Individuals in employment, housing, or public accommodations or services; or 3) prohibiting subject Individuals from accessing facilities (including, but not limited to, restrooms), where “subject Individuals” are those identified in the legislation or regulation based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity, family responsibility, political affiliation, or disability.”
ASAE President and CEO John Graham IV, told attendees at the ASAE 2016 Annual Meeting that associations have a responsibility to protect members’ rights and must ensure suppliers know that associations will not come to their cities and convention centers unless all of ASAE members are welcome.