The Marriott Apologizes — AND COMES OUT!

As you all know, six of the Family Equality Council staff attended
Creating Change this
past week in sunny (ha) Detroit, MI! We had a great time, learned a
lot, and were proud to run the first ever institute on family
issues, “Families to the Front: Cross-Issue Social Justice Work
Around a Central Family Theme.”

There was an incident in the hotel bar Friday night that I wanted
to share with you all, one that I just missed by going to bed a
little early. So far as I’ve been told — and other attendees,
please chime in if you know more — one security guard was
requested to go down and encourage the guests to head on back to
their rooms so the bar could close. (We’re not the typical Detroit
Marriott bar crowd….)

Turns out something like 6 or 7 security guards went down and
caused a mild panic among conference attendees. Creating Change
isn’t just filled with white guys in suits. There are any number of
constituencies who have reason to fear men and women in uniform —
hotel security included.

Some thought it was an immigration raid; others reacted as they’ve
become accustomed to, fearing violence of some kind.

Of course our community responded, engaging hotel staff in
dispersing the many guards, and things settled down. The next day,
a member of the hotel staff addressed attendees at the end of a
plenary session.

She gave the usual public relations-driven speech, highlighting how
happy the hotel was to have our business, how sorry they were for
the incident, but her emphasis on apology seemed more genuine than
expected. She approached the end of her comments, which I’ll
paraphrase for you now:

And, on a personal note, I’m so glad to have you all here,
doing the great work that you do, so that one day no one will have
to fear or suffer the way some of you did last night, so that my
sister will no longer have to fear.

It might sound trite in blog-retrospect, but it was a powerful
moment, and there were any number of misty eyes in the room (mine
included). Here we had gathered to hear some “corporate lackey”
apologize and move on, saving face, when in the process she came
out as a straight ally and acknowledged that she, too, benefited
directly from our work. It made us feel more at home in the hotel
than we had in the few days leading up, and reminded us that we
were not the only LGBTQ people in the building, and we were
especially not the only people affected by homophobia, transphobia,
and other forms and anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

Creating Change will be in Denver next year, and we’re already
excited to go. I encourage you to check it out — it’s the premiere
conference of our movement, with workshops and events for people of
all ages and experience levels.

One thing we found this year is that people are excited and
interested in family issues. The more actual families we get there,
the more our movement will pay attention to our part of the
community and the struggle!