"In principle and in practice, ASAE values and seeks diverse and inclusive participation within the field of association management. ASAE promotes involvement and expanded access to leadership opportunity regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation, nationality, disability, appearance, geographic location, or professional level." — ASAE Diversity and Inclusion Statement
State Religious Freedom Protection Laws
ASAE has sent letters to numerous states urging governors to veto or address legislation that would effectively permit discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Tennessee: In April 2016, ASAE wrote Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam in opposition to a bill that would allow mental health professionals to turn away clients based on the counselors' own "sincerely held principles." The American Counseling Association said the measure is in direct violation of the ACA's code of ethics and is an "unprecedented attack" on the counseling profession. ASAE also characterized the bill as discriminatory and said it could damage the state’s image as a welcoming destination for businesses, meetings and conventions, and tourism.
Governor Haslam signed the bill, arguing it addressed his two concerns: It did not apply if an individual seeking counseling is in imminent danger of harming themselves or others, and it required counselors who feel they can't see a client due to their personal beliefs to coordinate a referral to another counselor or therapist.
Georgia: In March 2016, ASAE sent a letter to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal urging him to veto a bill titled the Free Exercise Protection Act. The legislation would offer protections to faith-based groups if they refuse to provide “social, educational, or charitable services that violate” their religious beliefs. Governor Deal vetoed the legislation, saying the bill did not reflect Georgia's spirit and welcoming nature.
North Carolina: ASAE also delivered a letter to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory in March 2016 opposing a law he signed that bans local jurisdictions from enacting ordinances to protect the rights of LGBT citizens. The law, locally called HB2, was passed by North Carolina legislators in a special session to block civil rights protections for gay and transgender people that had been enacted in Charlotte. Gov. McCrory then quickly signed it into law. The law triggered a backlash of opposition from dozens of corporations doing business in the state. In July, the National Basketball Association pulled the NBA All-Star Game from Charlotte next year because the measure was not altered to protect LGBT citizens.
The Justice Department and the state of North Carolina are now involved in a lawsuit regarding whether HB2 violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX of the Education Acts Amendment of 1972, and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. A request was granted to delay the trial while the Supreme Court considers if it will hear a Virginia case on transgender restrooms this year.
Indiana: In March 2015, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation that many believed would allow businesses to discriminate against individuals based on sexual orientation. In a letter to Governor Pence, ASAE pushed for clarifying language and a clear antidiscrimination carve-out in the legislation. Only a week after the bill passed, Governor Pence signed a measure stating that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not authorize businesses or individuals to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, goods, or public accommodations to any member of the public based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, or military service.
Arkansas: Last year, ASAE sent a letter to Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson regarding similar legislation passed by the state general assembly. Governor Hutchinson asked for changes to the bill that mirror federal law. He signed the legislation after a clear antidiscrimination carve-out was added.
ASAE is committed to diversity and inclusion practices in all of our meetings and events. Laws that permit discrimination are not only regressive, but also put ASAE members at risk of being denied service anywhere from restaurants to meeting and convention facilities, and they send a harmful message that fairness, equality, and the principles of our Constitution are secondary to personal prejudice.