Gays picket Bill Clinton in San Diego
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Gays picket Bill Clinton in San Diego

SAN DIEGO -- About 200 GLBT activists and union activists picketed the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego on Feb. 15 as former President Bill Clinton spoke inside to the International Franchise Association.

The protesters were upset that Clinton "crossed a picket line" to speak at the association's annual convention.

Gays have been boycotting the hotel since last summer because owner Doug Manchester donated $125,000 to the campaign to get Proposition 8 on the November ballot. Passed by 52 percent of voters Nov. 4, Prop 8 re-banned same-sex marriage in California five months after the state Supreme court legalized it.

No representative of the IFA was available to speak to media, and hotel officials said Clinton would not be available to reporters either. The officials prohibited a reporter from accessing the floor on which the convention was taking place.

An openly gay hotel spokesman, Kelly Commerford, said "the voters have spoken" on same-sex marriage in California and that the views of Manchester do not represent those of Global Hyatt Corp., which has received high marks on scorecards charting corporations' policies on GLBT issues.

Commerford also charged that union activists, who also are boycotting the hotel, have misrepresented the working conditions of the hotel's non-unionized maids. He disputed claims that the maids must clean more rooms per shift than is standard in the industry.

Near the demonstration's end, four gay activists entered the hotel in an attempt to deliver to Clinton 30,000 signatures collected by the Courage Campaign urging Clinton to relocate his convention address to a different venue.

Courage Campaign Chair Rick Jacobs, NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt founder and union activist Cleve Jones, Sara Beth Brooks of the San Diego Equality Campaign, and local Pride at Work Co-chair Carlos Marquez were halted just inside the main entrance by hotel staff.

The activists requested that Clinton or a representative meet with them to receive the petitions. The hotel staff said they would relay the message, then walked away. After several minutes, the staffers returned and the activists repeated their request. The staffers again said they would relay the message, then walked away.

There was no indication that the activists' request was passed on to Clinton or his representatives and, thereafter, the hotel staff simply ignored the activists.

The activists huddled for a few minutes and then left the hotel and returned to the rally.

When he was president, Bill Clinton signed into law the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

The law states: "No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship. ... In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

Clinton also signed into law the military's anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.