Philadelphia Marriott facing criticism for hosting right-wing summit

The Philadelphia Marriott Downtown.

From June 29 to July 2, the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown will host Moms for Liberty, a national right-wing advocacy organization, and their second national convention. Called the “Joyous Warriors Summit,” the event plans to host a variety of prominent right-wing speakers and workshops to disseminate information and stratagems, just as LGBTQ Pride Month concludes.

Moms for Liberty (M4L) has over the past two years acquired a reputation of aggressively pursuing an agenda that includes banning books with LGBTQ content, advocating anti-trans policies in schools and city councils, and actively supporting far-right candidates for local offices and school boards. The organization is currently a 501(c)(4), though there have been complaints filed with the IRS over the groups nonprofit status due to its political activity.

This will be M4L’s second annual summit. Last year’s summit was held in Florida, with the keynote speaker being Florida’s anti-LGBTQ Governor Ron DeSantis. This year’s speakers will include Mark Robinson, Lt. Gov. of North Carolina, and Kevin Roberts, president of the right-wing think tank, the Heritage Foundation.

Local LGBT-allied advocacy groups and activists have been planning a series of public responses to the Summit, including rallies, protests and demonstrations. They have also been organizing email campaigns, phone zaps, and petitions aimed at Marriott and challenging the hotel’s decision to host what is being characterized as a hate group. One such action will be a rally on May 12 at 5:00 p.m. at the Marriott (1201 Market Street), led by a coalition of trans- and queer-led groups and their allies.

Until recently, Marriott management has avoided making a public response to the activists’ concerns.

On April 20, a group of Democratic Pennsylvania state legislators — State Sen. Nikil Saval (Dist. 1), and State Reps. Mary Louise Isaacson (Dist. 175) and Ben Waxman (Dist. 182) — wrote a letter to the management of Philadelphia Marriott Downtown expressing concerns about the Summit and posing a series of questions.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by PGN, was addressed to the hotel’s general manager, Ken Reed, and said, in its entirety:

“Dear Philadelphia Marriott Downtown:

“We are writing to express our concern and disappointment upon learning that Moms for Liberty, an organization known for its controversial and discriminatory views, will be hosting its national convention at your hotel. As elected officials representing Center City, we are deeply troubled by this decision and would like to understand the reasons behind it.

“Moms for Liberty has been widely recognized for its divisive rhetoric, discriminatory practices, and promotion of harmful policies that target vulnerable communities, specially the LGBTQ+ community. This organization has a history of spreading misinformation and advocating for discriminatory policies that undermine the values of inclusivity, diversity and respect for all individuals.

“As a well-respected hotel, we are unsure why Philadelphia Marriott Downtown would choose to allow Moms for Liberty to hold its national convention at your premises. Hosting an organization with a track record of promoting discriminatory practices and divisive policies goes against the principles of inclusivity and respect that should be upheld by a reputable establishment like yours.

“As the area’s elected officials, we urge you to reconsider your decision to host Moms for Liberty’s national convention at your hotel. We would like to understand the rationale behind this decision and request a written response addressing the following questions:

“1. Why did Philadelphia Marriott Downtown choose to host Moms for Liberty’s national convention? 2. What criteria or guidelines does your hotel follow when deciding which organizations are allowed to host events at your premises? 3. How does your hotel ensure that the organizations hosting events at your hotel align with the values of inclusivity, diversity, and respect for all individuals?

“We believe it is important for Philadelphia Marriott Downtown to be transparent and accountable to its guests and the community in its decision-making process for hosting events. We look forward to your response and a constructive dialogue on this matter.”

On April 27, Marriott responded to the legislators’ letter. The response, also acquired by PGN, reads, in its entirety:

“Thank you for your letter regarding the Moms for Liberty convention to be held later this year at Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to the important concerns you have raised.

“The Philadelphia Marriott Downtown works hard to maintain an environment where every guest and employee feels welcome, safe, and respected when they walk through our doors. This begins with a commitment to nondiscrimination that we put into practice every day. Of course, it is also important to consider longstanding legal standards which prohibit places of public accommodation from discriminating on the basis of certain traits or beliefs. Our internal policies strive to exceed such nondiscrimination standards by ensuring we open our doors to everyone.

“We sincerely hear the concerns you articulate; however, our accommodation of certain guests or groups cannot be seen as support for or an endorsement of any particular set of beliefs. As a hotel that provides accommodations and event space to the public, we must serve people from all walks of life, with all points of view, equally—even when the views they espouse may be far from our own values. Please know that our hotel will decline business that would break the law, or otherwise pose a threat to the safety of the public, our guests, or our staff.

“We understand and truly respect your view, and we remain committed to our values of inclusion, fairness, and welcoming all.”

The response was signed by Reed. Along with serving as general manager of the hotel, Reed sits on boards including the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Sen. Saval released a statement to PGN regarding Moms for Liberty and Marriott’s position on the Summit. The statement reads:

“Moms for Liberty is an organization predicated on spreading hate, misinformation, and divisiveness. They are promoting book bans throughout the country, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the era of Joseph McCarthy. Throughout the country, and here in Pennsylvania, they are advocating for open discrimination toward LGBTQ+ students and their families. They are attempting to whitewash history by removing discussions of slavery, Jim Crow, and structural and institutional racism from school curricula.

“Their worldview is shallow, oppressive, and rooted in loathing and fear of people who they perceive as different. That Marriott has decided to host such an openly hateful group at their flagship Philadelphia hotel is alarming. When I joined my colleagues, Reps. Mary Isaacson and Ben Waxman, in writing to Marriott about this decision, the hotel responded with platitudes about their commitment to inclusive practices. Absent any decision by Moms for Liberty to change locations, I look forward to welcoming the group Philadelphia — with protests.”

Defense of Democracy, a Pennsylvania based advocacy group that works to oppose M4L’s and their allies’ agenda, also released a statement commenting on the Saval letter and Marriott’s response.

“We are grateful that these good politicians have made such a fearless and important move to protect democracy,” the statement read. “While it does appear that the conference will continue, these three representatives have shown courage that will hopefully reverberate in political offices around the country. Hate is not welcome in the City of Brotherly Love!”

Pennsylvania STOP Moms for Liberty is another group that is, in cooperation with Defense of Democracy, looking to organize a response to the Summit. Ariel Franchak is the lead coordinator of PA STOP Moms.

Franchak’s reaction to Marriott’s response was, simply, “Marriott’s response was unacceptable.”

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