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L.A. County voters to decide on condoms in porn

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Los Angeles County voters will decide in November whether to require porn actors to use condoms during film shoots, in a ballot measure that marks a new front for an AIDS group that has long targeted the adult entertainment industry.

The ballot initiative is the latest salvo against the industry, after the city of Los Angeles passed a similar requirement in January that has yet to be enforced.

Backers of the initiative submitted about 370,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot, well over the 232,000 required, said Ged Kenslea, a spokesman for the group AIDS Healthcare Foundation which is behind the proposal.

It would force health officials and regulators to enforce laws already on the books, the ballot measure’s backers say.

Efrain Escobedo, manager of governmental affairs for the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, said on Thursday the measure was found to have enough signatures to go to voters. It must still go before the county Board of Supervisors for final review.

If county residents approve the measure in November, it could affect the way porn movies are made. Producers have warned they could move from Los Angeles to dodge the requirement.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation, an advocacy group and healthcare provider, has worked to get the initiative before voters as a public health effort to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

“You really couldn’t ask for a better opponent than porn producers,” said Michael Weinstein, the foundation’s president. “Any amount of money they spend (to defeat the measure) would backfire because people have a low opinion of porn producers.”

Weinstein’s group succeeded in leading the Los Angeles City Council in January to approve a requirement that porn actors use condoms on the set as a condition of obtaining a film permit.

But city officials are still working out the kinks on how to enforce the requirement, which would not apply to shoots inside movie studios, because those do not need a permit, AIDS Healthcare officials said.

BUILDS ON STATE LAW

The proposed ballot measure, if approved by voters, would require porn producers to get a health permit from Los Angeles County to make their movies showing explicit sex and nudity.

Weinstein, whose group began pushing for condoms in adult films after a porn actor was infected with HIV eight years ago, said the ballot measure would impose more far-reaching controls on porn producers than the city rules.

Using condoms on the set would be a requirement of the permit, whether the shoot was in a studio or elsewhere, Weinstein said.

Existing California workplace laws mandate the use of condoms by porn performers, but AIDS Healthcare officials say the state statute is not specifically aimed at the industry and is widely violated.

The group expects that involving Los Angeles County health officials and the use of health permits, which already apply to everything from barber shops to restaurants, will win compliance.

Representatives from the porn trade group Free Speech Coalition did not return a call or e-mails seeking comment. The group has said efforts to require condoms on porn sets will threaten freedom of expression and lead to government overreach by regulating sexual behavior between consenting adults.

The vast majority of U.S. porn productions are produced in Los Angeles, in particular, a suburb of Los Angeles called the San Fernando Valley.