The New York Times - January 17, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles City Council approved a new mandate
Tuesday requiring all actors in pornographic films to wear
condoms during any filming that takes place within city limits.
The law is the first of its kind in the country, advocates said,
and could have a significant impact on what some say is a $1
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has pressed for such legislation
for years and last year secured nearly double the number of
signatures needed to place the issue on the ballot in June, when
the state is scheduled to hold its presidential primary.
But the ballot initiative would have cost the already strapped
city roughly $4 million. Several council members suggested that
voters were likely to approve the measure by a large margin
anyway and that the Council should simply save the money by
approving it. The Council did that on Tuesday, without debate, in
a 9-to-1 vote.
"The issue itself is so common sense and intuitive, why put the
city through the costs and ordeal when the outcome is really
preordained?" Councilman Paul Koretz said. "This is a no-brainer
of an issue. It's not going to cost us very much to enforce -- we
won't spend any more money enforcing this than we do any other
law. And in this case, if you don't follow the law, it will be on
The new mandate will allow the Los Angeles Police Department to
perform spot checks on any set once a film permit is issued. A
group of officials from the Police Department, the state's
workplace safety agency and the city attorney's office will make
recommendations on how to implement the policy, which goes into
effect in 90 days.
The law also imposes a fee on all pornographic film permits to
cover the costs of enforcement.
The city attorney had opposed the legislation, saying it was
unclear whether the city had the authority to create such a law
because the state governs issues between employers and employees.
But he dropped the opposition last week, and the AIDS Healthcare
Foundation agreed to pay up to $50,000 in legal costs if the city
is sued over the matter.
The foundation is still pushing a ballot initiative that would
create the same requirements for filming anywhere in Los Angeles
County. In the past, county health officials have said that it
would be too difficult to monitor the pornography industry
through the Health Department and that the State Legislature
should be the one to pass any laws regulating the industry. So
far, advocates for the condom requirements have not been able to
persuade a state legislator to sponsor such a bill.
"The most important thing about this is that this is the first
political body to pass legislation requiring regulation," said
Michael Weinstein, the president of the AIDS Healthcare
Foundation. "When push comes to shove, people know this was the
right thing to do."
Current regulations by the California Division of Occupational
Safety and Health already require pornographic actors to use
condoms. But the state agency can only respond to complaints, not
perform its own inspections, and it has issued only a few fines.
Several filmmakers have said that requiring condom use is
unnecessary and that the spread of sexually transmitted diseases
is reduced by requiring actors to get regularly tested.
"Clearly this is about the government overreaching and intruding
into consenting adults' decisions," said Diane Duke, the chief
executive of the Free Speech Coalition, a trade group for the
pornography business. "Our standards and protocols are extremely
effective and are working. They are taking something they know
nothing about and imposing their morality on our industry."
Ms. Duke said that film executives did not know the Council was
planning to vote on the matter until after it held an initial
hearing last week, and that no producers had spoken with City
Council officials. She said that the group would consider filing
The only "no" vote came from Councilman Mitchell Englander, who
represents the San Fernando Valley, the heart of the industry.
"Strictly on a matter of what we should and shouldn't be going
after when we are nearly broke, this isn't where we should be
spending our resources," Mr. Englander said. He added that he
feared filmmakers would take their business elsewhere. "We don't
know how much this will cost us to enforce, how we will enforce
it and whether it will cost us the loss of jobs."
Mr. Weinstein said the argument that the pornographic film
industry would move out of Los Angeles is a "big lie."
"They cannot just pick up their stakes and move to another
state," he said. "They'd hardly be welcomed in West Virginia or
Utah or Mississippi, or even a place like Nevada, where legal
prostitution is highly regulated and condoms are required. And we
will follow them wherever they go."