Porn Condom Measure Qualifies for Los Angeles County Ballot

A ballot measure asking Los Angeles County voters whether porn actors should be required to wear condoms during filming has received enough signatures to qualify for the November election.
by | July 5, 2012
 

By Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times

A ballot measure asking Los Angeles County voters whether porn actors should be required to wear condoms during filming has received enough signatures to qualify for the November election, a county elections official said.

The initiative, one of the most explicit ever seen on a ballot, will be decided by voters in a county that is the nation's most populous and headquarters of the U.S. porn industry.

Los Angeles AIDS activists and other supporters say porn performers are at constant risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

"The lives of these performers are not disposable," AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein said Wednesday. "This industry is sending out the wrong message about safer sex."

Many adult film producers oppose the initiative, saying that actors and actresses should be able to choose whether to use condoms.

Diane Duke of the adult film lobby group Free Speech Coalition could not be reached for comment late Wednesday. She has said previously that the measure was "government overreach into the way we make movies." Porn producers have said they tried using condoms in the late 1990s following an HIV scare, but consumers were not interested in spending money on porn with condoms.

Weinstein said his group collected 371,000 signatures in five months, far exceeding the 232,000 signatures needed to qualify the measure for the ballot. The county Board of Supervisors must take the final step of placing the measure on the ballot.

If approved by voters, the measure will require adult film producers to pay a fee and obtain a permit from the county Department of Public Health. Actors will then be required to use condoms for acts of anal and vaginal sex. County officials will have the authority to suspend or revoke the permit for violations, and could follow up with civil fines or misdemeanor criminal charges, according to the AIDS group's petition.

Weinstein said he was confident of success. The AIDS group released the results of a March poll of more than 1,000 likely voters, which said that 63% would vote yes.

"The people are ahead of the politicians on this issue," Weinstein said. "There's never been something on the ballot as sexually explicit as this, so it's going to be excellent education for people."

The requirement would apply to filming in unincorporated areas of the county and 85 of its 88 cities, including Los Angeles. The cities of Pasadena, Long Beach and Vernon have their own public health departments.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed a city ordinance into law in January ordering porn performers to wear condoms while acting in films made under city permits. The City Council approved the ordinance after the AIDS group gathered enough signatures to take the issue to voters. Believing voters would approve the requirement, council members adopted the requirement rather than spending $4 million on a special election.

The ordinance became effective in March, but the city is still studying how to enforce it, said AIDS Healthcare Foundation spokesman Ged Kenslea.

The controversy over a condom requirement in porn has flared up on and off for more than a decade as the porn industry, centered in the San Fernando Valley, flourished after the California Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that adult film producers cannot be prosecuted under anti-prostitution laws.

But the industry has been marred by the announcement of HIV infections in porn performers, such as Darren James in 2004 and Derrick Burts in 2010, and infection scares have suspended porn filming at various times.

Porn industry leaders have said they are considering plans to fight back in court or by moving filming out of town. But there may be a legal obstacle to pulling up stakes entirely: New Hampshire is the only other state whose courts have ruled that adult film producers cannot be prosecuted under anti-prostitution laws. Weinstein said he did not worry about the porn industry's threat to move away.

"This is a principled question," Weinstein said. "Do we have slave labor or child labor in California because they do it in some country abroad?"

(c)2012 the Los Angeles Times

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