- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 12, 2004

Homosexual activists are calling for a boycott of Virginia because of its new ban on civil unions, but business and tourism leaders yesterday said it is too early to gauge the impact of such a boycott.

A new Web site started by homosexual activists in Seattle, VirginiaisforHaters.org, urges would-be tourists to boycott Virginia companies and their products. The Web site’s name satirizes the state’s tourism catch phrase: Virginia Is for Lovers.

“By all means, don’t take your tourism dollars there until they disprove their new slogan, ‘Virginia Is for Haters,’” the Web site states.

Jay G. Porter, one of the Web site’s founders, said he expects the boycott to force Virginia’s Republican-controlled legislature to rethink its ban on civil unions.

“If you stack a gay consumer up against your typical Wal-Mart shopper and look at the kinds of margins that we drive for retailers and in the hospitality industry, I think any business person looking at those numbers would ask Virginia exactly what they had in mind when passing a law so clearly designed to make us feel unwelcome,” Mr. Porter said.

Virginia’s General Assembly in April enacted a law amending the state’s Affirmation of Marriage Act to prohibit the state from recognizing same-sex unions or “marriages” performed in other states. The law, which becomes effective July 1, bans civil unions, “partnership contracts” or other arrangements between homosexuals.

Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, tried to amend the law by deleting the phrase “partnership contracts,” saying the phrase is unconstitutional. The legislature rejected his amendments and enacted the law without his signature.

The state’s top homosexual rights advocacy group, Equality Virginia, is planning a legal challenge, as well as statewide protests on June 30, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, another homosexual rights group, Make Love Legal, is developing strategies for boycotting the 400th-anniversary celebration of the founding of Jamestown in 2007, AP reported.

Mr. Porter said the new law is “written so broadly and so recklessly” that people who are not homosexual should be concerned.

“I think that anyone who is conservative should have enough of a respect for property rights and the right to enter private contracts that the language of this law would give them pause,” he said.

Mr. Porter cited a 1992 boycott of Colorado that reportedly cost the state $40 million in tourism revenue as a harbinger for Virginia.

But Hugh D. Keogh, president and chief executive officer of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said it’s too early to determine how a boycott would affect the state.

“Any speculation on the impact is premature,” Mr. Keogh said, adding that the call for the boycott is “barely on the radar screen” and “not a front-burner matter at this point.”

Alisa L. Bailey, president and chief executive officer of the state’s tourism corporation, said early indications show that the boycott is “not having an effect.”

Virginia’s 10 “welcome centers” have seen a nearly 16 percent increase in visitors in recent months, and lodging and restaurant sales are on an upward trend, she said.

However, Mrs. Bailey said that “anytime there is a possible threat to tourism, we are concerned about it. To say that we’re not concerned would be inaccurate.”

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