SALT LAKE CITY

ASAE’S 2016 Annual Meeting & Exposition is set to wrap at the Calvin L. Rampton Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City drawing approximately 4,000 attendees and making a powerful statement on civil rights as they relate to “religious freedom” laws enacted in many states and jurisdictions.

ASAE’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a Diversity + Inclusion advocacy and policy model and new contract language for future events in advance of the event.

A key part of the effort will be to educate state government and other elected officials on the ramifications of enacting legislation that violates public accommodation laws, such as denying services to the LGBT community.

“We have absolutely zero tolerance for discriminatory practices,” said John Graham IV, president and CEO of ASAE. “This religious freedom activity is a very tricky issue. Our issue is not to take a moral stand on social justice issues. Our issue is to say that everybody should be welcome.”

Graham said the move is not a threat to boycott destinations that violate public accommodation laws, but a push to empower associations with contract clause language that would allow them to cancel meetings if discriminatory laws were passed in the destination where their meeting was to be held.

“I think there’s a trend line here and ASAE wants to be out in front,” Graham said. “This is not to penalize states or venues, but to be proactive with state legislatures and to have them understand the consequences of these bills. When you refuse public accommodation you cross a line. We’re not drawing lines in the sand and calling for boycotts. I think associations need to make their own decisions. We simply feel that everyone should feel welcome when they come to a destination.”

Graham added that ASAE currently does not have any meetings planned in states or jurisdictions that have enacted discriminatory laws, but there’s a strong possibility that some of its members do.

“This is a position that we’re taking that gives us maximum flexibility in where we might go and what we might do,” he said. “Currently ASAE has no contracts in states that have these laws.”

In other government lobbying news, Graham said ASAE is continuing its effort to influence a U.S. Department of Labor move to raise the threshold for mandatory overtime pay for those with annual salaries of less than $23,000 to a new threshold of $47,000, effective Dec. 1, 2016.

“The last time the threshold was raised was 2004,” Graham said. “If you apply the [rate of] infl­­ation, it would be [approximately] $36,000 or $37,000. We thought $35,000 was reasonable. We also want [the U.S. Department of Labor] to index for geographic differences—major metro salaries are higher than Midamerica or small-town America, but the federal government didn’t agree with us.

“We’re trying to work with a coalition for a legislative fix [that] would be phased in over three years, and that would allow [us] to hit the $47,000 threshold in 2019,” he said.