Alex Blaze

Hyatt tries to donate to the gays

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 11, 2009 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: California, Californians Against Hate, doug manchester, Fred Karger, gay marriage, Hyatt Hotels, Prop. 8, same-sex marriage, san diego

Fred Karger's Californians Against Hate (a pretty effective group) has had some success in their boycott of several San Diego area Hyatt hotels. They started the boycott last July because the owner of those hotels, Doug Manchester, donated $125,000 to help pass Prop 8. Last Friday, Manchester announced that he'd donate $25,000 to "a national organization that promotes civil unions and domestic partnerships" (don't really know what that means since I don't know of an LGBT group that promotes civil unions and domestic partnerships but not marriage, but The Advocate reports that they wanted to give it to HRC but that HRC turned down the money).

Anyway, this story is interested because Manchester hired a famous gay crisis manager and PR agent, Howard Bragman, who's now telling everyone how not-homophobic Manchester is and to call off the boycott. I know, I know, he was hired by Hyatt to make this go away and he may actually believe that a $125K donation to Yes on 8 isn't a sign of homophobia, but how does he square that away with his previous call to boycott El Coyote because their owner donated $100 to Yes on 8? He says it's understandable because Manchester is religious (he's Catholic), but the owner of El Coyote donated because she was deeply Mormon.

I'm absolutely not questioning Bragman's commitment to LGBT equality, but I am questioning his logic. Both donations were given to the same cause (Yes on 8) for the same reason (religious conviction that same-sex marriage is horrible), but the El Coyote donation is a trifle compared to the Hyatt's. But I guess everyone has a right to representation.

Anyway, it's not like Manchester's offer is satisfying to Fred Karger:

However this effort has not impressed Fred Karger, the head of Californians Against Hate.

"It's an insult to the gay and lesbian community and our labor allies that he is attempting after 10 months to go around us and buy his way out of this boycott," he said. Karger settled two of the four boycotts he began against companies in the wake of Proposition 8. High-end juicemakers Bolthouse Farms settled after five weeks of negotiations, and now according to Karger they have changed their company policy and have since given $110,000 to various organizations.

Karger insists Manchester's move is largely for show and largely financial.

"Manchester told [Cummerford] that he had lost $7 million due to this boycott," he says. "If that is the number he admits to, then I assume it is a lot higher. Our boycott has been very effective. For example, the latest blow is the National Trial Lawyers Association, who just announced that they were moving their convention of 2,000 lawyers not only from Manchester's hotel but from San Diego entirely. Their event is in July and they are moving to San Francisco, so at great expense to them, in order to show solidarity."

His position makes sense. Manchester donated $125K to Yes on 8 when it counted, before the election. Donating $25K to gay rights groups now when it won't affect Prop 8, plus $100K in credit at his hotel (not really worth all that much, when you think about it, since he can't fill the rooms anyway), just seems like he's trying to pass out schwag and keep everyone happy.

Then again, I'm left with the question, what can Manchester do? Is there an amount he can donate to make this all better? Or would it take some sort of non-monetary contribution to the movement to improve the situation?

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christophe | May 11, 2009 3:03 PM

After coming out and showing public support of a ban against gay marriage, I don't know of anything he could do to get back support. I know that I won't stay at this Hyatt if in S.D. He made his statement, now he must live with the consequences.

The damage is done. There's nothing he can do.

Lets try to remember that not all Hyatt's are owned by Mr. Manchester, keep the Hyatt name out of it and just refer to it as the Manchester Grand Hotel, lots of other Hyatt Hotels across the world are G&L friendly.

Maybe it is up to Hyatt to make that case if gay business is important to the brand.

Absolutely keep the Hyatt name front and center! Even though they may be gay friendly at other properties, they are still in business with Manchester, who clearly is not, despite the $25K bribe attempt.

With pressure from the corporate owner on Manchester, he will certainly pay the (financial) price for this lame attempt at trying to now woo the LGBT community back on his side, after having clearly sided with the Yes on 8 crowd.

And as for Howard Bragman: he should be ashamed! I understand that everyone wants/needs to make money, but this is pretty low, even for a PR-type (and they do go pretty low). Have some dignity, Bragman: don't try to wrap up this pile of crap in a bow and tell us that it smells like a rose, OK? We're just not buying!

Let's not forget too that there's a ton of controversy about the "donation" that most other groups had already turned down as too paltry. There's been a whole organization working around this business and they are not happy that someone else jumped in, took the low ball offer and is trumpeting a success while they had the business willing to do more...

Please read my blog to find out why I have named openly gay Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman "Bumhole of the Month" now that he is working for homophobic San Diego hotelier Doug Manchester!