Capitol Alert

Proposed California initiative requires condoms in porn films

Then-Assemblyman Isadore Hall speaks as Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, looks on at a 2013 news conference to support laws requiring porn actors to use condoms.
Then-Assemblyman Isadore Hall speaks as Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, looks on at a 2013 news conference to support laws requiring porn actors to use condoms. Associated Press file

After failing to pass legislation last year, supporters of requiring adult-film actors to wear condoms have taken steps to put their proposal before voters in 2016.

Michael Weinstein, the president of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the proponent of the proposed California Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, has argued that condoms and other preventive measures would improve workplace safety for porn actors and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Opponents of the proposed condom requirement from within the pornography industry, though, have warned that statewide regulations would push a legal industry underground and drive the $6 billion industry out of California. Rigorous testing already protects porn performers, industry officials contend, and kept three actors who tested positive for HIV in 2013 from infecting other performers.

Tuesday’s filing by Weinstein is a revised version of a proposal submitted about a month ago. Bradley W. Hertz, a Los Angeles attorney for Weinstein, said the amendments clarify some of the measure’s provisions.

The proposed initiative is similar to last year’s unsuccessful legislation, Assembly Bill 1576 by then-Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton. It would take effect immediately, and film companies would have to be licensed and report to the state, under penalty of perjury, that actors used condoms in a film. Violators would face fines of up to $70,000 or more.

The measure also would require film productions to include a sign that state law “requires the use of condoms for all acts of vaginal or anal intercourse during the production of adult films to protect performers from sexually-transmitted infections and diseases.”

Supporters of a condom requirement have complained that the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has done too little to require condoms to prevent the spread of pathogens in the adult-film industry. Unlike last year’s bill, Tuesday’s amended measure would allow adult-film performers to sue producers or others to recover civil damages for economic or personal injuries if a film company violated the condom rule.

So far, no follow-up to AB 1576 has emerged this session. A spokesman for Hall, now a senator, said Tuesday that the lawmaker will not carry a bill on the subject. The proposed initiative, once it is cleared for signature gathering, could help drive negotiations on any bill. And under new rules, initiative proponents can pull the plug on a measure even after turning in signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The Free Speech Coalition, a porn industry trade group, was not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

Last year’s legislation was modeled on a 2012 ordinance approved by Los Angeles County voters to require porn performers to wear condoms. Adult-film companies sued to block the law, but a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ordinance in December.

Industry critics of the Los Angeles County ordinance argue that film companies have shifted productions to other counties or stopped pulling county permits to avoid complying with the condom mandate. Porn film permits have dropped 95 percent since the ordinance’s approval, Diane Duke of the Free Speech Coalition said in December.

Call Jim Miller, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5521. Follow him on Twitter @jimmiller2.

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