LA could vote on mandatory condom use in adult films

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December 30th, 2011

A ballot initiative that would require condoms in all adult films shot in the city of Los Angeles has enough signatures to get on the June ballot. But there’s a legal challenge coming from the city’s attorney before LA residents can vote on the matter.

The proposed law called the “Safer Sex In The Adult Film Industry Act” would require “any person or entity directly engaged in the creation of adult films who is issued a permit” to “maintain engineering and work practice controls, including the provision of and required use of condoms, sufficient to protect employees from exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials consistent with state law.”

It would also charge adult film production companies a fee to pay for the periodic inspections.

Although state law already exists requiring condom use, a city ordinance would give additional enforcement, proponents of the proposed law say.

On December 23, the City Clerk of Los Angeles certified that there were enough voter signatures to qualify. HIV/AIDS advocates needed 41,138 valid Los Angeles voters’ signatures and they submitted 70,889.

The signatures were gathered over three months by a professional signature-gathering firm, according to AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a non-profit that has called for mandatory condom use in adult films.

The issue is a public health matter, according to AHF. In 2010, several adult film productions came to a halt after an adult film actor tested positive for HIV. In 2004, four actors tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS, also shutting down production in California.

“This wasn’t about porn, it was about worker protection, about fairness,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF.

But there are legal hurdles before putting this law on the ballot, according to the office of Carmen Trutanich, the Los Angeles City Attorney.

“We’re not trying to suppress the will of the voters or quash democracy,” said Frank Mateljan, the City Attorney’s spokesman. “We believe there are certain judicial questions or issues that are still out there.”

The city has to get clarity on whether it has the legal standing to enforce such a law or whether it’s pre-empted by the state, which already requires condoms be used in adult film shoots, he said.

The cost to the city of putting this on the ballot is $4.4 million when it’s unclear whether the city has the legal standing to enforce the law, he said.

“It’d be in the best interest to get clarification than put $4 million issue in the ballot, that we can be sued and rendered moot,” Mateljan said.

The city has already received threats of lawsuits from the adult film industry, he said.

The Free Speech Coalition, a trade association for the adult entertainment industry, applauded the city of Los Angeles for petitioning the court.

It sent a statement to CNN saying, “the City of Los Angeles has acted responsibly to protect the taxpayers from enacting an unenforceable measure preempted by State Law. The adult industry has been extraordinarily successful in preventing HIV infections through its testing protocols and self-regulation.”

Mateljan said the city is “not taking a stance on the substance of the measure or the goal. We’re simply trying to get some clarification who has standing to enforce these provisions and regulations.”

Ellen Widress, chief of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health wrote an email to the Los Angeles attorney’s office stating that the city was “not preempted by Cal/OSHA from asserting its authority to protect the health of employees and others , including volunteers, who may be exposed to health hazards in L.A.’s adult film industry.”

“LA needs to get on the right side of history,” Weinstein of AHF said. The measure requiring condoms would be “stopping the thousands of sexually transmitted diseases that take place in this industry.”

STDs have long been an issue in the adult films as workers in this industry are 10 times more likely to be infected, according to AHF.

Although state laws exist mandating condom use, the problem is the lack of enforcement, Weinstein said, adding that it has been a “political hot potato” and that no one has taken responsibility.

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