Marriott to Institute Pop-Up Warnings for Adult Fare in Rooms

Tom Hymes
WASHINGTON — After a contentious year in which a coalition of right wing Christian groups has consistently ratcheted up pressure on the Marriott hotel chain to remove adult entertainment offerings from its rooms, the lodging giant has offered a compromise in the form of pop-up warnings on TV screens.

The offer was contained in an Aug. 14 letter sent to the Arlington Group, a coalition of prominent right-wing Christian groups founded in 2002 with the goal of exerting influence in the political arena as well as with corporate entities such as Marriott.

According to news reports, Donald Wildmon, president of American Family Association, had given the hotel chain until Aug. 15 to respond to the groups demand to either cease offering all adult fare in rooms or institute an "opt in" procedure whereby guests would be required to present a photo ID at the front desk showing they are of age before getting access to sexually explicit movies.

Instead of acceding to either demand, Marriott said in a letter dated Aug. 14 that it would institute the new pop-up policy in more than 750 U.S. hotels over the next 30 to 60 days.

Kathleen Matthews, executive vice president of Global Communications & Public Affairs, which is part of Marriott International, said that two pop-up warnings will appear on TV screens that state that the following material is adult-oriented and only those who are at least 18 years old can view it. Viewers must then affirmatively agree in order to continue. The chain specifically rejected any plans to make hotel guests prove their age in person at the front desk or anywhere else.

"Our feeling is that you have to respect your guest in the room," Matthews said. "We can't have people coming to rooms checking IDs. That would be invasive."

The response to the compromise from Focus on the Family was decidedly tepid.

"It is a step in the right direction," said Tom Minnery, senior vice president of government and public policy at Focus on the Family Action, the political wing of Focus on the Family. "We would have hoped for more."