SFS2017 RALEIGH NORTH CAROLINA HB2 UPDATES.
We had really hoped to begin this letter with the good news that NC had repealed the notorious HB2 'bathroom law' that caused voters to oust our current governor. Unfortunately, as many of you may have heard, the NC legislature backed out of their stated intention to repeal HB2. Despite this, we will be holding SFS 2017 in Raleigh, NC. We have made this decision because a) we are faced with the choice of holding a meeting in a place where many SFS members have issues with a prominent state law (the three of us included) vs. not being able to hold an annual meeting at all; and b) we believe that the concerns over HB2 have catalyzed important and long overdue conversations about how SFS should confront social and political movements that cause harm to some or all of our members. We can only have those conversations if SFS members of all sexual, political, socioeconomic, religious, and cultural perspectives feel comfortable joining in.
Some members have expressed concerns about their personal safety or the personal safety of their friends and colleagues in Raleigh. We want to assure you that the city of Raleigh celebrates its diversity, and that, like most US cities, local government officials and business interests are all fighting hard against HB2. Most of the bathrooms you will encounter in and around the convention center have become gender neutral as a result of the law. The conference hotels and the convention center have all published their opposition to HB2 in no uncertain terms. Local businesses proudly display the #wearenotthis signs on their front doors. We are confident that you will all feel welcome in this city that is proud of its hospitality, its food, and its culture. Nonetheless we understand that some members may feel that attending a conference in NC, and supporting NC businesses and hotels, makes them complicit in allowing HB2 to exist. Skipping the meeting in protest of the state law is one way to make a statement against the law. Our goal, as meeting organizers, is to make attending the meeting a way to make a bigger difference, through needed conversations about how to make SFS a scientific society that is more welcoming, more inclusive and more socially progressive than any other institution or society that you engage with. This is our goal regardless of the fate of HB2 between now and our annual meeting in June.
Concerned members have banded together into a new ad hoc committee charged with thinking broadly about inclusivity within our society. Many events and happenings are planned for SFS 2017 that will create opportunities for dialogue about difference and for considering our own roles and responsibilities in resisting our tendencies towards implicit bias. We are adding a meeting code of conduct and will vote on a formal SFS code of conduct in our June 2017 meeting. This code follows from the diversity and inclusivity statement that SFS approved last summer.
Some SFS members will be barred from traveling to NC due to travel bans imposed by their state governments. We regret this in the extreme, while also appreciating the peer pressure that these bans are placing on our legislature. For those unable to attend, we are exploring ways to promote opportunities for virtual participation (streaming talks, virtual posters, social media updates).
Whatever category of SFS member you fall into, we want to hear your ideas about how we can work individually and collectively to make SFS a society that increasingly reflects the diversity of society as a whole.
Emily Bernhardt, 2016-2017 President, SFS
Jim Heffernan, SFS 2017 Local Arrangements Chair
Mike Paul, SFS 2017 Programming Committee Chair
Michael Bogan, Chair, Ad hoc SFS Inclusivity Committee
Dear Members of SFS
We have begun hearing from members concerned about attending the SFS meeting planned for Raleigh, NC in 2017 in light of NC Executive Order No. 93 / House Bill 2 (full text here) which nullified the attempts of the city of Charlotte, NC to pass an ordinance specifically preventing businesses from discrimination against LGBT people and declaring that public restrooms "must be designated and only used by persons based on their biological sex".
As past, present and future presidents of SFS and the organizers of the Raleigh 2017 meeting we personally and collectively state our opposition to this hateful and discriminatory law. Those of us who live in and love North Carolina are particularly outraged, since we know that the interests and the morals of most North Carolinians are not being represented by NC lawmakers. This controversy arose because lawmakers in the city of Charlotte were attempting to advance LGBT protections and state lawmakers responded by rushing to invalidate their attempt. In the end, we hope and expect that the concerned citizens throughout the state will succeed in advancing civil liberties for all people.
Some of you are worried that your employer will not allow you to travel to the state due to boycotts. Others feel bound to boycott the conference due to your personal opposition to the law. We support each person's decision to act according to their conscience. Should it assist in your decision, we do want to let you know that our contracted hotels are among those who are pledged through their national organization to the commitment of inclusion and non-discrimination, and the convention center itself is city owned with a firm commitment toward inclusion of all – coming out strongly in writing against HB2 (statement here).
You should also know that outrage over this law is widespread both within and outside of NC. All of the Democratic state senators walked off the floor in protest of this bill when it came up for a vote and the state's own Attorney General Roy Cooper has called HB.2 unconstitutional and refused to defend it in court. The ACLU has sued Governor Pat McCrory, the state Attorney General's office and the University of NC for discrimination against LGBT persons under HB2. Public protest and opposition is widespread across the state (#wearenotthis) and the state government of NC is facing the prospect of massive losses in federal funding and private investment if they fail to repeal the law. We hope the combination of public opinion, economic costs and lawsuits will collectively force this law to be repealed.
We plan to attend the 2017 SFS Meeting because we are working hard to ensure that this meeting is intellectually exciting and more inclusive and diverse than ever before. If HB2 is still in place at the time of our meeting, we will incorporate a direct protest of the bill into the meeting program. Regardless of the status of HB2 by June of 2017, we will use this discriminatory law as a catalyst for increased and improved dialogue about how SFS can best foster inclusivity, celebrate diversity and welcome difference as a vital and beautiful component of how we seek to understand and share our love of freshwaters. We welcome your suggestions for activities, events and resources that can help us achieve these goals at the upcoming meeting and all future meetings to come.
We also want to use this opportunity to inform SFS members of our official society diversity statement. This statement which was unanimously approved by the SFS Board of Directors and approved by a vote of the membership at our 2016 meeting in Sacramento, was already under development well ahead of the HB2 controversy. It is intended to solidify our commitment to becoming a scientific society that respects and embraces cultural diversity in all its forms, and that increasingly reflects our society as a whole.
Emily Bernhardt, SFS President and North Carolinian
Colden Baxter, newly elected SFS President for 2017-2018
Matt Whiles, immediate past SFS President
Dave Strayer, past SFS President
Randy Fuller, past SFS President
Dave Penrose, past SFS President and North Carolinian
Jim Heffernan, SFS 2017 Local Arrangements Chair and North Carolinian
Michael Paul, SFS 2017 Program Chair and North Carolinian
Joy Brisighella, SFS Member Services and Conference Management