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L.A. city attorney tries to block condoms-in-porn vote

Saying that only the state can regulate condom use in porn films, L.A. City Atty. Carmen Trutanich is asking that a citywide ballot measure be scrapped to avoid lawsuits. Two council members disagree.

December 17, 2011|By Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times

A fight is brewing at Los Angeles City Hall over whether voters can legally consider a ballot measure that would make porn actors wear condoms during filming within city limits.

The proposed initiative would force any adult filmmaker to require that performers use condoms and allow the city to charge a fee for inspections of sets, according to Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Last month, the group said it had collected more than 70,000 signatures calling for a vote, far more than the 41,000 needed to put the measure on the city ballot in June.

But last week, City Atty. Carmen Trutanich filed a complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court saying that "Los Angeles voters have no power to adopt the proposed measure," because only the state — not the city — has the ability to make such rules. Trutanich's suit raised the question that a voter-approved condom requirement could attract a lawsuit, forcing "the needless and wasteful expenditure of public resources made in connection with a measure which the voters have no power to adopt."

"What we're trying to do is seek judicial clarification to see if the city of Los Angeles is preempted from regulating condoms in adult film shoots or whether those powers are relegated to other state agencies," said Frank Mateljan, spokesman for Trutanich.

City Councilman Paul Koretz said in an interview Wednesday that Trutanich's action to block the ballot measure was "anti-democratic." "Usually, we have the people have their say first," Koretz said.

Koretz and Councilman Bill Rosendahl wrote a council motion, submitted Tuesday, asking that Trutanich withdraw the lawsuit. There was no vote, Koretz said, and the issue will remain on hold while the city clerk checks whether enough valid signatures have been collected to put the initiative on the ballot.

Koretz and Weinstein noted that the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has said the city does have the authority to require condom use. "The Legislature allows local safety action," wrote James D. Clark, staff counsel to Cal/OSHA, in a letter to the City Council.

"The people have a right to vote," Weinstein said. Worrying about lawsuits coming after the election is "not a reason to prevent a democratic vote from taking place."

ron.lin@latimes.com

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