How Hollywood Can Keep Gay Actors in the Closet: Contracts


So here’s a cute little discussion about whether Hollywood studios can legally keep actors and actresses in the closet. And the very easy answer is: Yes, yes they can.

It’s called a “morals clause,” and most stars of television series and even some movies have them. Often, for heterosexual actors, this just means “No getting arrested for beating your wife,” although you’ve got to wonder what Charlie Sheen’s morals clause looks like then. For gay actors, however, maintaining a certain public image can be spelled out in legalese before, say, Matt Bomer signs on to star on USA’s White Collar.

Leslie Gornstein writes at E!: “I talked to an array of people for this story, ranging from well-sourced gossip columnists to top-flight attorneys. And none of them flat-out denied that such contracts exist. In fact, at least one source tells me they do exist, but not necessarily in the explicit way you might think they do. From what I am able to gather, a contract between an agency and an actor may dodge the exact issue of ‘coming out.’ But it might ban other sorts of telltale activities.”

While employers may not be able to wield such control over full-time employees, movie studios are considered independent contractors, and they could argue that portraying a hetero image is crucial to a successful business transaction. Studios can exclude white actors if the role calls for a black actor, and while public acknowledgment of one’s sexuality takes place off screen, we’d love to see studio make the case that public perception is as equally important as what happens in front of the camera.