Should AAMFT ask members to convene in North Carolina?

I just sent this email to the AAMFT Board of Directors (edited so that links are hyperlinks):


Dear AAMFT Board:

I hope you will read this and other news stories about Amendment 1 which just passed in North Carolina.  Not only does it ban same-sex marriages, but also civil unions.

According to AAMFT’s own task force, legislation aimed at denying committed family and partnership bonds such as this amendment is detrimental to the welfare of couples, families, and children.

I am deeply disturbed that due to the planned convention in Charlotte this September, I am going to be asked to spend my money for transportation, housing, food, and local taxes in North Carolina while the convention itself contributes tax revenue as well.

I hope that AAMFT will consider the mistakes made at the Cincinnati convention,* consider possible courses of action, and take a clear, unambiguous stand regarding the very troubling moral and ethical aspects of holding this convention in Charlotte that includes openly addressing membership before, during, and after the convention, and dedicating a plenary to a speaker who can address the effect of these policies on families (the theme of the conference is women; lesbian married couples outnumber gay male married couples and lesbian couples are twice as likely as gay male couples to have children).

I would appreciate consideration for whether North Carolina is even the right place to ask our members to gather, given the anti-family policy the state’s voters just supported.  Unlike in Cincinnati, there is not even a bordering community where GLBTQ members and allies can stay in conscience, since as you can see from this graphic, the bordering state of South Carolina is even worse than North Carolina on gay rights, lacking a school harassment policy protecting sexual orientation and gender identity, and designation of “non-family” visitors in hospitals which North Carolina at least has

I have been a member of AAMFT for 15 years, and an Approved Supervisor for more than five years.  I graduated from a COAMFTE-accredited program and teach at a program seeking accreditation.  I have presented at the Annual Conference many times, and am slated to present this year.  I am strongly opposed to spending my own money to fill the tax coffers of those who discriminate against same-sex couples and families and go out of their way to make it impossible for couples to even have “second-class citizenship” with a civil union.  I do not believe AAMFT should support states with these policies or ask members to support them either.

Dr. Sheila Addison, LMFT


* For those not familiar with this incident, some years back, AAMFT had scheduled its annual conference in Cincinnati, where there were a number of recent incidents of suspicious police shootings of African-Americans.  AAMFT stated it could not move the conference without severe financial losses, but also refused to address members’ and residents’ desire for public discussion of the issue at the conference, or formal engagement in a social justice dialogue between community members and members of local government and the police.  “Family Therapists for Social Justice” took various actions during the conference, such as staying across the river in a different community (the downtown hotels were being picketed by community members encouraging travelers not to spend money there), refusing to spend money at Cincinnati restaurants, wearing t-shirts in solidarity, and organizing a voluntary community meeting in the evening after conference events ended for the night.  The peaceful meeting was ejected from its meeting room by hotel management and re-formed in the streets.  AAMFT did not, to my memory, even publicly acknowledge the concerns of its own members and Cincinnati residents.

Apologies if I get some of the details wrong or omit important points; this was a number of years ago and I came late to the FT4SJ group, not knowing it was organized until I actually got to the conference (booked, unfortunately, at a downtown hotel.)  In any case, I want AAMFT to do better this time around.  My travel to the Annual Conference is going to be 100% funded by my own money, which I am now very distasteful of having to spend in North Carolina.

4 thoughts on “Should AAMFT ask members to convene in North Carolina?”

  1. Dear Dr Addison

    My congratulations on an excellent letter, we psychotherapists must also be about social justice and therefore our professional bodies need to consider this when making arrangements to host national and international conferences.

    Shaun Brookhouse

    1. Dr. Sheila says:

      Shaun – I agree. I realize that with same-sex marriage bans in so many states (including my own California!), there are few if any “ideal” places to hold conferences. The freshness and viciousness of this particular insult to queer couples and families makes North Carolina a particularly unfortunate choice, but conferences are booked far in advance and require large financial commitments for organizations.

      However, our professional organizations owe it to the membership to acknowledge the problematic aspects of supporting communities that discriminate against queer couples and families, and to foreground the psychological, relational, financial, and social impacts this has on both residents of these communities, and on GLBTQ members of the profession who must “go along to get along” if we want the professional opportunities afforded by these conferences.

      AAMFT has come a long way in the past few years in its willingness to make space for and even advocate for GLBTQ clients, members, and allies. It has also vigorously resisted calls for change to its leadership practices, lack of transparency, and lack of member involvement. With the example of Cincinnati in its past, I wonder how it will handle this challenge in the present.

  2. Gonzalo says:

    Probably the stronger message is to abandon membership, like many of us have done, with organizations that continue to pay leap service to social justice issues. Before Cincinnati, many members left because of the ambiguous stance towards pro-choice positions. Thanks for the entry.

    1. Dr. Sheila says:

      Unfortunately that’s not an option for everyone. I need to keep my Approved Supervisor status so I’m employable by schools with or seeking COAMFTE accreditation, and you can’t be an Approved Supe without being a member. I also need to qualify for the discounted CPH insurance. Fortunately I’ve been impressed that leadership is making some efforts to approach the issue with more transparency and pre-planning than in Cincinnati; we’ll see if they actually deliver, and I don’t think I’ll get my wish for a plenary that confronts the issue head on, but I am pleased to see more movement on the whole issue of supporting same-sex relationships and families than I would have thought possible, just in the past 5 years (particularly given the intransigence over reproductive rights and the silence over Cincinnati.)

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