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Activists collect signatures to get condom measure on Los Angeles County ballot

The measure is aimed at protecting pornography performers. To qualify it for the November election, supporters need more than 200,000 signatures by June 5.

January 03, 2012|By Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times

An AIDS activist group will begin circulating petitions Tuesday asking Los Angeles County voters to require porn performers to wear condoms during filming.

The move comes after the L.A.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation qualified a similar measure for the June ballot in the city of Los Angeles. That measure, however, faces a legal challenge.

"The county has a primary responsibility of protecting the public health," foundation President Michael Weinstein told The Times.

Weinstein asserted that the county Board of Supervisors has "steadfastly refused" to take action against porn producers who don't use condoms in filming, putting performers at risk of HIV and other diseases. "So we will take it to the voters," Weinstein said.

The ballot measure would "require producers of adult films to obtain a public health permit from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and pay a permit fee" to fund enforcement. The measure is modeled on health permit requirements for tattoo shops, massage parlors and bathhouses.

The county would be authorized to revoke permits of film producers violating the ordinance, and violations could result in civil fines or misdemeanor charges.

Weinstein said the county could conduct random spot checks of film sites, similar to the county's surprise inspections of restaurants and food carts.

Weinstein plans to hold a news conference at 10 a.m. Tuesday in front of the Van Nuys office of county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the San Fernando Valley, where the multibillion-dollar porn industry is centered.

In February 2010, Yaroslavsky said it is the state of California, not the county, that needs to act to protect adult film performers. If law enforcement is empowered to conduct sting operations, Yaroslavsky said, "all you've got to do is make one or two arrests and the rest of the … industry will understand pretty quickly that there's a risk."

Weinstein, however, said the county has the responsibility to protect the health of all people, including porn performers. After all, he said, fire departments are responsible for overseeing pyrotechnics on film sets, and municipalities have banned smoking in restaurants to protect patron and employee health.

He said porn performers deserve the same occupational rights to protect their safety and health as construction workers, who are required to wear harnesses when working on skyscrapers.

To qualify the measure for the November 2012 election, supporters need to gather more than 200,000 signatures by June 5.

The infection of porn performers has temporarily halted filming in the past. That happened in the summer of 2010, when porn performer Derrick Burts was diagnosed with HIV. Burts later said condom use needs to be required on porn sets to prevent more HIV infections.

Diane Duke, director of the adult industry lobbying group Free Speech Coalition, has previously said that the industry opposed mandatory condom use and that performers are protected if they are tested regularly.

ron.lin@latimes.com

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