Pro-Family Groups Lobby Marriott for Porn-Free Rooms

July 7, 2008 - 8:06 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Officials with Marriott International have agreed to meet with pro-family leaders to discuss the hotel giant's policy of selling in-room pornographic movies to consumers at some of its properties.

"We certainly think Mr. Marriott has a heart for children and families," Randy Sharp, director of special projects for the American Family Association (AFA), told Cybercast News Service.

The AFA is one of 47 pro-family groups to sign an April 3 letter, addressed to Marriott Chairman and CEO J.W. Marriott Jr., asking that the corporation cease offering adult entertainment in its rooms. Other groups signing the letter include Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and Citizens for Community Values.

The letter stressed that pulling the plug on pornography would be in keeping with Marriott's public statement of "promoting the well-being of children and families."

Roger Conner, vice president of communications with Marriott International, told Cybercast News Service that officials from the corporation will meet with representatives from some of the groups that signed the letter on May 14 in Washington, D.C.

But he said it is a complex matter to make broad policy changes for a publicly traded company with properties that have individual owners.

"Marriott is a publicly traded company, so Mr. Marriott would not make a unilateral decision," Conner said.

Conner said he doesn't know when or who made the original decision - "it goes way back in time" - to contract with Lodgenet Interactive Corp., the main purveyor of in-room entertainment for hotels in the United States and around the world, including Marriott and its many brands: Hilton Hotels Corporation, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and Carlson Hospitality.

Like Marriott, many hotel chains leave in-room entertainment programming decisions up to individual properties, making it difficult to determine how many hotel rooms have pornography for sale in rooms.

Conner said individual properties, not Marriott International, receive compensation from Lodgenet or other providers from movies, including adult movies, sold to consumers.

Pro-family groups have been lobbying major American hotel chains for years to end the practice of selling pornography to consumers, but this is the first time a major hospitality corporation has agreed to meet with these groups.

Conner told Cybercast News Service that the meeting will be "a good discussion," but he added that making policy changes is a long process.

"The first part of that process will start with discussions with our owners," Conner said.
Some large chains, however, have taken the initiative to make all of their properties porn- free, including Omni Hotel & Resorts. The corporation implemented the new policy in 1999 after negotiating with Lodgenet for a porn-free in-room entertainment package.

"So many people have been supportive of this decision," Caryn Kboudi, vice president of corporate communications, told Cybercast News Service. "We have received thousands and thousands - we don't even count them anymore - of letters from families, from communities, from all corners to applaud the effort that it took to make this change.

"We have never had anybody be disgruntled about it," she said.

Conner said Marriott International occasionally receives complaints from shareholders and guests about in-room pornography.

In 2002, Citizens for Community Values - a conservative group dedicated to promoting Judeo-Christian moral values - launched a Web site it hoped would help families support hotels that are porn-free.

At least one group, however, supports the distribution of adult movies in hotels. Paul Cambria, general counsel for the Adult Freedom Foundation, said adults should have access to whatever entertainment they find enjoyable.

"I don't refer to it as pornography," Cambria told Cybercast News Service. "I refer to it as adult entertainment. Adult entertainment is completely protected by the First Amendment, and the Supreme Court has said so time and time again."

The upcoming meeting between Marriott and pro-family leaders could result in less hotel options for those who agree with Cambria and a larger database for CleanHotels.com.

"We are hoping (Marriott) takes a responsible corporate position on this and ceases offering that kind of material in their chains," Daniel Weiss, senior analyst for media and sexuality at Focus on the Family, told Cybercast News Service.

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