Bill Requiring Condoms in Porn Narrowly Passes Out of California Senate Committee


A bill that requires adult film stars to wear condoms during shooting is one step closer to becoming law in California after yesterday’s vote by the state Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee.

As RH Reality Check has reported, the fight to mandate condoms in porn has been going on for many years. Advocates say that actors and actresses are being unfairly exposed to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, on the job, while industry insiders—including many on-screen stars—argue that they can take care of their own. The two sides have been battling it out on the local level in Los Angeles County and now in the state legislature.

Both the city and county of Los Angeles saw many attempts to pass a local ordinance, spearheaded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), ordering the use of condoms on set. When their efforts failed to win votes from local officials, AHF took the matter to the people of California by getting the “Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act,” known as Measure B, onto the ballot. The measure was passed by an overwhelming majority of voters in 2012, despite threats from producers who said they would simply take their operations—and tax dollars—elsewhere.

Measure B has yet to be fully implemented, however. Two production companies sued the county to prevent the law from taking effect. The companies lost in August 2013, when U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson ruled that the new measure seeks to alleviate those harmed in a direct and material way and was constitutional. The ruling, however, according to some people in the industry, made the measure significantly harder to enforce by imposing administrative hurdles—such as obtaining a search warrant before even inspecting for violations—for an already resource-constrained county health department.

Though it continues to advocate for enforcement of Measure B, AHF has turned some of its attention to the state level, working with Assembly member Isadore Hall III to introduce legislation requiring condoms on set. The legislation was first introduced last session but died after a closed-door committee discussion. It was reintroduced in January of this year, as AB 1576, and squeaked by the Assembly with the minimum votes needed to pass in May.

In his speech on the floor, Hall argued, “We need to begin to treat the adult film industry just like any other legitimate, legal business in California. Legitimate businesses are required to protect employees from injury in the workplace.”

This sentiment was later echoed by AHF president Michael Weinstein, who said, “I don’t know why people who work in that industry shouldn’t be afforded the same protections as people who work on a construction site, or on a regular movie set.”

A number of people in the industry, however, including porn performers, are vehemently opposed to this legislation. Star Lorelei Lee headed to the state capitol this week to argue against the bill. Lee believes that a condom mandate would have a devastating effect on the industry by forcing legitimate productions underground.

Lee told Salon:

When our jobs are illegal, they not only become more dangerous, they also become more stigmatized. In a time when porn performers already face the abrupt closing of our bank accounts, discrimination in hiring and in housing applications, and a risk of firing from other non-sex-work jobs we might obtain, the question of our livelihood moving underground becomes one of survival.

She added that performers were also concerned about privacy, because the bill mandates the sharing of “information” (presumably STI test results) with the California Department of Industrial Relations.

The argument that may have received the most attention, however, was when she suggested that on-screen sex was not the same as private sex—because, she said, it lasts longer and the penises are bigger—and that condoms could actually make it less comfortable for the actresses. In addition, Lee pointed out that lawmakers were moving forward without the blessing of those the mandate is designed to protect. “[It] was written not only without the input of the workers it will impact, but also without any knowledge whatsoever of the kind of work we actually do,” she said. “There is no other industry a legislator would attempt to regulate with this same utter dismissiveness and ignorance.”

Advocates like Hall and Weinstein were not swayed by her pleas or those of the more than 500 porn stars who joined her in opposing the legislation. Hall and Weinstein noted that in 2013 alone, the industry faced three shutdowns because of stars with positive HIV tests. Moreover, according to the Los Angeles Department of Health, about 25 percent of performers are diagnosed with an STI each year, and rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are seven times higher among porn actors than among the general population.

In a statement after yesterday’s vote, Hall said, “Today, the Members of the Senate Labor [and] Industrial Relations Committee overwhelmingly saw beyond the adult film industry’s flaccid misinformation campaign and took decisive action to protect these actors in the workplace.”

The bill passed the labor committee with three yes votes, one no vote, and one abstention. It now moves to the senate appropriations committee.

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