Will gays' boycott turn the tables?

Groups target Manchester with conservatives' tactic

Gay rights activists gathered at the Manchester Grand Hyatt this month and called for a boycott of the hotel.

Brian Brown, a campaign official for Proposition 8, said the boycott has produced a backlash. A day after the boycott generated publicity, Brown said, his side raised $100,000 in contributions to support the same-sex marriage ban.

SACRAMENTO – Boycotts are older than the nation itself, but during the past decade, they've become the weapon of choice for conservative Christians engaged in the nation's raging culture wars.
They've used the boycott to try to inflict economic damage against corporate giants that they believe are becoming too cozy with the gay and lesbian community, including Ford, Disney and McDonald's.

Now gay rights groups and their union allies are trying to turn the tables by targeting the Manchester Grand Hyatt and the Grand Del Mar because the hotels' owner, Doug Manchester, gave $125,000 to Proposition 8, a November ballot measure that would ban same-sex marriage in California.

It's the first time in recent memory that a boycott has been introduced into California's expensive ballot battles.

Some analysts contend that the tactic – even if it doesn't reduce business at the hotels – could prove effective by persuading other potential donors to Proposition 8 to stay out of the battle.

“They will probably succeed in getting business owners that are hesitant to avoid giving,” said Tony Quinn, co-editor of the Target Book, which analyzes California politics. “It's a tough tactic, but it may be a wise tactic.”

Manchester, who has donated to a variety of largely Republican political causes, including contributing a total of $147,450 in 2006, said he was surprised by the boycott.

Lee Boa was among those who protested at the Manchester Grand Hyatt on July 18 because hotel owner Doug Manchester gave $125,000 to a measure that would ban same-sex marriage in California.

“It's a First Amendment freedom of speech issue,” Manchester said. “I certainly didn't want to offend anybody.”

In one way, the boycott may have been effective already.

Manchester said he contributed because of his strong Catholic faith – the church opposes same-sex marriage – but said he doesn't expect to give any more money to Proposition 8.

“My position is that I was asked to make a contribution and I did it,” he said.

At least two gay organizations have canceled plans for events at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, but it is nearly impossible to say whether it has hurt business at the Hyatt beyond that. Grand Hyatt officials say it has not.

The effectiveness of a boycott is notoriously difficult to determine. Generally, those that are narrowly targeted, well-publicized, limited in duration and have specific goals tend to be more effective.
Those that drag on for years with vague goals are frequently ineffective.

“It really depends on your product, your situation in the market and whether there are good substitutes,” said Larry Chavis, who co-authored a study on the boycott of French wine called by supporters of the Iraq war to protest French opposition.

Chavis, a business professor at the University of North Carolina, said he found that sales of French wine dropped by about 13 percent in four U.S. cities, including San Diego, during a six-month period in 2003.

“It had a fairly significant impact,” Chavis said. “Boycotts are something that companies need to be concerned about.”

Boycotts have a long history in the United States.