The American Veterinary Medical Association’s 2017 convention is more than two years away, but the organization issued a statement today about the get-together in Indianapolis and an expanding controversy.
At issue is a new Indiana law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which opponents say sanctions discrimination and the potential denial of services to gays and lesbians. Gov. Mike Pence has asked the state legislature to quickly clarify the law and forbid business owners from discriminating against customers.
AVMA acknowledged the outcry and said the issue “has raised concerns for us regarding our 2017 annual convention.”
The AVMA statement reads:
“The law poses many unsettling questions and leaves us facing a disturbing problem: We and our members are concerned that not all of our attendees will be welcomed in Indiana and that some may face discrimination. In addition, we are concerned that access to quality animal health care to some groups of the Indiana public may be compromised by this law. Neither is acceptable to the AVMA. We join the growing number of companies who encourage the state of Indiana to revisit this law and take additional measures to prevent its interpretation as enabling discrimination, and we’re encouraged by the recent announcement that the Indiana legislature intends to do so.
“Veterinarians are compassionate, trustworthy and highly educated people. Their race, religion, cultural background, ethnicity, age, disability status, veteran status, gender and sexual orientation do not change these facts, or the fact that they are human beings who are entitled to fair and equal treatment. And while we value and support all of these freedoms, we do not believe any of them to be mutually exclusive of another. Ultimately, the AVMA is committed to diversity and inclusion in the veterinary profession.
“The situation in Indiana is evolving rapidly, and we’re watching it closely. Dr. Ron DeHaven, our CEO, was personally contacted by Gov. Pence and voiced our concern about potential discriminatory practices and about our members’ well-being. Dr. DeHaven encouraged the legislative clarification that the governor is seeking. The AVMA board of directors will be discussing the issue at their upcoming April board meeting and we’ll keep you informed as the situation evolves from an AVMA perspective.
“We need a diverse profession to serve the diverse needs of society, and the AVMA will strive to ensure that all attendees are welcome at the Indianapolis convention and every AVMA convention.”
The 2015 AVMA convention is set for July 10 to 14 in Boston. The 2016 meeting will take place in San Antonio.