Can Hollywood Legally Keep Gay Stars in the Closet?

Contracts do exist to restrict star behavior, and we're told, yeah, they can keep celebs from coming out

By Leslie Gornstein May 01, 2010 2:00 PMTags
Adam LambertMatt Sayles/AP Photo

Is it legal for a movie studio to have a clause in a celeb's contract that prohibits them from being openly gay? Wouldn't that be considered discriminatory?
—Ande, Los Angeles via Facebook

Interesting topic, given that some closeted celeb is due to come out next week. (And will E! Online have all the details? You bet we will!)

About your question, let's put it this way...

If any company tried to tell any full-time employee—say, for the sake of argument, that Disney hired Adam Lambert, and ordered him not to talk about his gayness—that sort of contract would go south quick.

First of all, the studio would be dealing with Adam Lambert. And second, attorneys tell me such a contractual demand would probably be illegal. But what about contracts that don't involve an employee relationship—like, say, an agency and an actor?

The answer my shock you:

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.

Angela Agrusa, an attorney at the entertainment law firm Liner Grode Stein, says she hasn't personally seen any such contracts, "but I'm sure they do exist." Nonetheless, she wouldn't be surprised if contracts were more vague—couched "more in behavior modification terms—you won't be seen in public holding hands with so-and-so, that sort of thing."

Why? Well, Agrusa explains, asking a star to outright deny or decline to discuss sexual identity might be considered voidable by a judge—even if the relationship isn't that of an employer and employee.

Which brings us back to our soon-to-be-out mystery gay.

Sure would be interesting to know exactly what type of pressure—contractual or otherwise—has kept them in closet, don't you think?

Follow Answer B!tch on Facebook and Twitter!


PHOTOS: Celebs coming out on magazine covers.