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Faulty Tower

The financier behind Fairmont Austin is not exactly gay-friendly
Brandon Watson, 3:14pm, Wed. Mar. 6, 2013
photo by Gensler Architects
The 50-story penumbra cast by the new Fairmont Austin hotel at Second and Red River will not be the only shady thing about the project. The tower is being financed by Manchester Texas Financial Group, whose founder and chairman* Doug F. Manchester helped bankroll a far less glamorous project – California’s same-sex marriage banning Prop 8.

The partnership is an odd fit for the Canada-based luxury hotel operators, who actively court the “pink dollar” through direct promotions and membership in the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association. Fairmont properties are routinely listed as among top LGBT-friendly hotels.

Manchester properties, however, are just as routinely boycotted. Following news that Manchester donated more than $100,000 to the Prop 8 campaign, his holdings became a target for LGBT activism. In his home base of San Diego, activist group UNITE-HERE Local 30 held weekly protests in front of his namesake Hyatt hotel. The protests and resultant boycott was estimated to have cost the hotel more than $2 million.

Although Manchester is no longer affiliated with that property, the local furor is still simmering. Most of the criticism has been focused on his purchase of San Diego daily the Union Tribune. Since the purchase, the paper of record has become a mouthpiece for Manchester’s “fair and balanced” conservative views. When President Obama made his support for marriage equality known last year, U-T announced that he "pushe[d] [the] court to force gay marriage on all states.”

Despite all the backlash, Manchester can boast to having at least one gay friend. Contrarian usual suspects GOProud have flocked to his defense quicker than you can say “sellout.” In return for $16,000, they picked the Manchester Grand as the site for a reception honoring lesbian talk radio host Tammy Bruce – most famous for being the person who the religious right points to when they say “not every gay person supports same-sex marriage." Reportedly, all participants were welcomed warmly with a fruit basket.

*An earlier version of this story identified Doug Manchester as the president of Manchester Texas Financial Group. Doug F. Manchester is the founder and chairman of Manchester Financial Group. Doug W. Manchester, his son, is the president of Manchester Texas Financial Group. The Chronicle regrets the error.

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