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L.A. City Council OKs law requiring condom use by porn performers

The vote marks a significant victory for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has been rallying for years to protect the health of porn actors by asking agencies in California to mandate condom use during film shoots.

January 18, 2012|By Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times

In a significant defeat for the adult film industry, the Los Angeles City Council has given final approval to a city ordinance requiring porn actors to wear condoms while performing.

The 9-1 vote Tuesday marks a significant victory for the L.A.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has been rallying for years to protect the health of porn actors by asking agencies in California to mandate condom use during film shoots. In the past decade, porn shoots have been suspended several times after high-profile cases of porn performers infected by HIV.

"It's a great day for the performers and safer sex in our society," said an ebullient Michael Weinstein, president of the foundation, which has been waging a largely lonely battle for mandatory condom use for years. "This is the first legislative body to take up the issue, and the near-unanimous support is very gratifying."

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is supportive of the ordinance, believing it to address a public health issue, a mayoral spokesman said. Because Villaraigosa is in Washington, D.C., this week, it's possible that the council president, Herb Wesson, will sign the ordinance as acting mayor.

For years, lawmakers have largely ignored calls to crack down on condom-free porn filming. But last year, the foundation changed its tactics and gathered signatures to ask voters to pass an ordinance requiring adult film producers, when seeking a filming permit in the city of Los Angeles, to have actors use condoms.

The new rule would require porn producers to pay a fee to fund surprise inspections. The proposed requirement would have targeted the multibillion-dollar porn industry centered in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley.

Last week, council members signaled during the ordinance's first reading that they believed the porn condom measure would pass at the ballot box and decided to back the AIDS group's proposed ordinance to avoid a $4-million special election this June.

"I think there's no doubt: the voters would see this as a common sense issue and pass it," said Councilman Paul Koretz.

Porn industry representatives opposed the measure. Diane Duke of the lobbying group Free Speech Coalition said, "This is government overreach. It's not about performer health and safety; it's about government regulating what happens between consenting adults."

Weinstein said gay porn performers have been using condoms for years.

Referring to the porn industry, "it's in their DNA to not have anybody tell them anything about how they do business. Self-regulation in the industry has been shown to be a failure across the board," Weinstein said.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is also gathering signatures for a measure to go to Los Angeles County voters for the November election. It would also require condom use and ask porn producers to obtain permits from the county Department of Public Health before filming. The county would also be able to do surprise inspections.

The AIDS group is also considering launching a similar condom measure in San Francisco.

ron.lin@latimes.com

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