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Proposal would mandate use of condoms in L.A. porn films

AIDS activists are gathering signatures on petitions to place the measure on the city's June 2012 ballot.

August 17, 2011|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times
  • The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is leading the campaign for a ballot measure to require adult film performers to use condoms, also led a protest in favor of condoms near a porn industry event in February.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is leading the campaign for a ballot… (Francine Orr / Los Angeles…)

Adult film performers would be required to use condoms in order for porn filmmakers to obtain Los Angeles city permits under a measure that AIDS activists hope to put on the city's June 2012 ballot.

The proponents must submit a petition with at least 41,138 qualifying signatures (15% of all votes cast in the last mayoral election) by Dec. 23 to place the measure on the June ballot, city election officials said. If they succeed, it will be the first time the issue — litigated and disputed during state regulatory meetings — would come before voters, city election officials said.

The measure would also require porn filmmakers to submit to periodic inspections by city officials to ensure that they comply with the law.

"We are not anti-porn," said Michael Weinstein, president of Los Angeles nonprofit AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which is leading the campaign for the ballot measure. "We have no problem with people making adult films. A little piece of latex has the ability to save lives."

In May, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously not to mandate condoms as a condition of issuing film permits, but to instead urge state and county officials to allow them to do so.

"Since we couldn't get the City Council to act, we have decided to take it directly to the people of Los Angeles," Weinstein said. "We'd rather take our chances with the electorate than with the cowardly political establishment."

The foundation has hired a professional signature-gathering group. If the petition is approved, the group plans to campaign in every City Council district.

"We will expect every City Council member to take a stand for or against," Weinstein said.

Los Angeles County health officials denied his group's request to mandate condom use in adult films in February. The group had previously sued the county unsuccessfully to mandate condom use in adult films. The foundation has also failed to persuade state and federal workplace health and safety officials to intervene and mandate condom use in the porn industry.

Some adult film actors support mandatory condom use, saying it offers better protection than the voluntary testing for sexually transmitted diseases that many performers rely on.

"Testing only notifies you of what you have or don't have already. There's still a large time gap where you can catch [a sexually transmitted disease] and spread it," said Derrick Burts, a former performer who spoke out last year in favor of mandating condoms in porn after he contracted HIV on the job.

"The real protection comes from wearing the condoms," he said.

But porn industry officials said the ballot measure was a ploy by Weinstein's group to garner attention.

Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, an adult entertainment industry trade association based in Canoga Park, said the proposal was the latest evidence that Weinstein's group "has an anti-adult industry agenda."

"Like its previous frivolous lawsuits, erroneous charges with Cal-OSHA, multiple press conferences and protests, I suspect that this is the next step in AHF's attempt to stay relevant," Duke said. "Clearly their efforts and financial resources would be much better served in the prevention and treatment of HIV rather than continuing its witch hunt of the adult entertainment industry."

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

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