Lights, Camera, Condoms: Activists Try for Another Ballot Initiative Requiring Porn Stars to Use Condoms


Last week, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) began collecting signatures on a petition to get a measure on the county-wide ballot mandating that porn stars wear condoms.  This is the latest move in a battle between an industry that claims it is willing and able to police itself and an activist community that argues producers are not doing enough to protect their performers. 

In case you’ve forgotten, when we last left our friends in the porn industry in September, production had just resumed after one star’s HIV test caused both a panic and a voluntarily shut down of all sets. Though the test turned out to be a false positive, the incident drew attention to the safe-guards (or lack of safe-guards) designed to protect performers from sexuality transmitted diseases (STDs). 

Both California and federal workplace safety rules require porn stars to use condoms if they are exchanging body fluid through sex, but some activists, including AHF say these rules are toothless and largely ignored. AHF has long been working to get the city of Los Angeles to pass an ordinance which would mandate condom use on set and heavily fine those productions that fail to comply.

In February 2011, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to draft an ordinance which would mandate condom use in adult films and enforce the rule by linking the requirement to the issuing of film permits. Oddly enough, in May the council voted unanimously not to pass such an ordinance.  So AHF took its campaign to the voters in the city of Los Angeles and began circulating petitions.  It managed to get a ballot measure qualified for the city’s June 2012 vote, however, that measure faces some legal challenges

In the meantime, AHF is focusing at least some of its energy on a similar county-wide measure.  The group’s president argues that it is the county’s responsibility to protect the health of its residents. “After all,” he told the LA Times, “fire departments are responsible for overseeing pyrotechnics on film sets, and municipalities have banned smoking in restaurants to protect patron and employee health.”

County officials, however, disagree.  At least one county supervisor believes that it is not a city issue or a county issue but a state issue:  “it is the state of California, not the county, that needs to act to protect adult film performers.”  He argues that if the state empowers law enforcement to conduct sting operations “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.”

AHF disagrees and is hoping that the voters of Los Angeles County will go for its ballot measure which it likens to the health permit requirements for tattoo shops, massage parlors, and bathhouse.  The 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.” It would also authorize the county “to revoke permits of film producers violating the ordinance.”  Violations of the ordinance, could result in civil fines or misdemeanor charges. The measure needs 200,000 signatures in order to find its way on to the November 2012 ballot. 

Some warn, however, that if such a measure were to pass, the porn industry, would take its billions of dollars and start making movies far away from Hollywood, where no latex is required.    

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