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Statement on California and Texas Laws Impacting State-Funded Travel to Texas

Aging crosses all domestic and international borders. It’s an issue that affects everyone regardless of religion, race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The main purpose of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA) is “to advance the scientific and scholarly study of aging and to promote human welfare by the encouragement of gerontology in all its areas.”

GSA’s 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting is scheduled from November 13 to 17 in Austin, Texas. As a professional membership organization promoting human welfare across the life course, GSA shares the concerns expressed by some members concerning a law that Texas legislators passed in 2017 — one that could be used to discriminate against individuals based on sexual orientation and other grounds. GSA is opposed to such discriminatory laws.

The law’s impact is further worsened by its follow-on effect of undermining the dissemination of science. Due to a prior California law restricting state-funded travel to states with discriminatory laws, the Texas law may affect some Californians wishing to share their scholarship in Austin if their travel is supported by state funds. (The California attorney general’s office has prepared a list of frequently asked questions that include a list of what exceptions can be made, such as travel related to grant funding.)

Large conferences such as the GSA Annual Scientific Meeting are scheduled years in advance. The Society has already booked meeting venues through 2025. None of those future venues are affected by the California travel restrictions, and this Texas law was not in place when GSA selected Austin as the host city.

In fact, the city of Austin is a desirable location for our meeting due to a long track record of creating an environment that not only values diversity, but strongly embraces it. GSA fully expects that attendees will feel welcome in Austin, and that the city will provide an excellent venue for the meeting’s 4,000 attendees to share their science.

Examples of Austin’s commitment to diversity include:

GSA has contractual obligations with the Austin Convention Center and numerous hotels for the 2019 Annual Scientific Meeting. After thoughtful consideration, the GSA Executive Committee has made the decision to uphold its numerous contracts with these properties, as the financial impact of doing otherwise would be extraordinary.

Consistent with its purpose statement, GSA:

  1. Has sent letters of opposition to the discriminatory law to the governor of Texas and Texas legislature (House and Senate).
  2. Invites members to share their views on this issue with state officials in Texas.
  3. Will convene a special scientific symposium at the Annual Meeting to showcase research on this issue.
  4. Will ensure the presence of any discriminatory state laws is a factor in selecting future Annual Scientific Meeting locations.

The Society remains committed to its mission and the meeting’s goal of advancing research on aging. As an open, transparent, professional membership organization, GSA respects the views of its individual members in determining how to deal with the personal and professional issues resulting from this unfortunate situation.

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