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City Council Mandates Condoms in Public Areas

By Seth Mnookin

A City Council ordinance passed last week will require all Cambridge restaurants, bars, hotels, health clinics or municipal buildings to carry "high-quality, affordable latex condoms" in vending machines.

Nancy M. Ryan, the Director of the Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women and Chair of the Public Policy for AIDS Taskforce, said it is essential to make condoms readily available, because they are the "only known prevention for AIDS."

"We have two goals. We want...to try and curb the spread of AIDS, and we also want increasing awareness by the public of AIDS and how to cut down on your risk," Ryan said. "Now, every time you go to the bathroom, you will see a condom machine."

One major loophole of the ordinance is a stipulation that allows any establishment to avoid installing vending machines simply by requesting an exemption in writing. Cambridge public schools will be automatically exempt from the ordinance.

Last week, a variety of Harvard Square establishments were asked how they would respond to the new ordinance. Neither the five restaurants nor the Harvard Square Cinema had heard of the ordinance.

Councillor William H. Walsh said he was "totally opposed" to the ordinance.

Walsh, a lawyer, said that foremost among his grievances is the fact that there is no provision for lawsuits that are the result of faulty condoms. "If the condom breaks, does the customer sue that establishment where he bought the prophylactic?" Walsh questioned. "Furthermore, what the heck is an affordable condom?"

"This ordinance is one more example of the power of the `liberal masses,'" Walsh said. "No-one has any concern whether this will be effective or not. This isn't going to do an ounce of public good."

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