STUDIO CITY, Calif.—It was an all-star line-up at AIDS Healthcare Foundation's press conference to announce their new petition drive for a city-wide ballot initiative to force adult producers to use condoms—though not the other "barrier protections" mentioned in the Health Code—on threat of being denied shooting permits from the city-controlled permit issuer, FilmL.A..
"We're here today to announce the launching of an initiative campaign before the voters of the city of Los Angeles, to require as a condition of permitting, that adult films follow the law," said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF.
An AHF press release described the initiative as follows: "The proposed ordinance would require any person or entity directly engaged in the creation of adult films who is issued a permit under the authority of the City of Los Angeles (City) for commercial filming of an adult film to maintain engineering and work practice controls, including the provision of and required use of condoms, sufficient to protect employees from exposure to blood or other potentially infectious materials consistent with state law. The proposed ordinance also would require that any film permit issued under the authority of the City of Los Angeles (City) for commercial filming of an adult film be conditioned on the compliance with this requirement and include language regarding the obligation to comply with applicable workplace health and safety regulations. The proposed ordinance also would require the City to charge applicants seeking permits for production of adult films a fee sufficient to pay for periodic inspections. The proposed ordinance would amend the Los Angeles City Municipal Code."
Supporting the "cause" were the "usual suspects": Pink Cross Foundation founder Shelley Lubben; her acolytes Jan Meza (formerly Elizabeth Rollings) and Jenni Case (formerly Veronica Lain); "Patient Zero" in the industry's 2004 outbreak Darren James; and the most recent convert—and, like James, an employee of AIDS Healthcare (AHF)—Derrick Burts.
"We protect all other workers in every other industry and minimize their risk," Weinstein continued. "We protect performers in Hollywood films, stunt people and actors, from injury. We even protect animals from being harmed in the making of films, and yet we do not protect the performers in this industry."
Of course, it has been AHF's long-standing position that the talent testing formerly performed by AIM, and more recently under the auspices of the newly-formed Adult Performer Health & Safety Services (APHSS) organization, is not as effective at preventing disease spread as the use of condoms, although Burts claims to have contracted his HIV on a condom-only set, while James reportedly contracted his infection while shooting in another country.
Weinstein went on to bash the city, the state and particularly the LA County Department of Public Health for failing to act on AHF's myriad efforts to force condoms on the industry.
"Then you come down to the county level, which is responsible for public health and stopping the spread of disease; they've been a no-show," Weinstein claimed. "We've gone to them many times and they have refused to act and they've punted it to the state. At the level of the state legislature, we have not been able to get any member to sponsor legislation to strengthen these provisions. And then we come down to the city. Since most of the films are made in the city of Los Angeles, the city of Los Angeles has jurisdiction over zoning, and as such the issuing of permits. There are about 200 permits a month that are issued to the adult film industry, and we simply want a condition of the issuing of those permits to be that they follow the health and safety laws. We have not been able to get the city council to enact this."
Of course, the adult industry releases roughly 300 new (non-compilation) titles per month, and should AHF's initiative pass—they're aiming to put it on the June, 2012 ballot—that number would likely increase.
Moreover, when asked about the disparity between his initiative's call for universal condom use, and the fact that the Health Code refers to "barrier protection," which would also include dental dams, latex gloves, goggles and face shields during hardcore scenes, Weinstein simply responded, "You've been peddling this 'goggles' line in every article... If that makes you happy, go for it. That has never been our position; it isn't our position now; it isn't the position of CalOSHA."
So much for "follow[ing] the health and safety laws"!
"The L.A. County Department of Public Health has plainly stated in response to a lawsuit filed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation that it doesn’t see a compelling public interest to require the use of condoms in adult movie production," noted Free Speech Coalition executive director Diane Duke, who provided the impetus for the APHSS system.
Inbetween, Meza claimed that during her 18 months acting in adult movies, "I suffered greatly, dramatically at the hands of irresponsible porn companies and agents," while Burts charged that, "The porn industry likes to think that they're above the law," claimed that "performers, especially female performers, are afraid to speak up... They're very belittled in this industry. I've gone to several shoots where the females are just treated horribly," that "If you ask a performer off-record, would you like your male performer to wear a condom, I bet you at least 98 percent of them would say yes"; and further claimed that, "LA County has since then confirmed that I worked with not one but two HIV-positive performers"—not surprising since his primary work was in gay porn.
Lubben then recounted her familiar claims that, although she was a prostitute for several years, she nonetheless caught human papilloma virus (HPV) and herpes while making adult films. James, who "[didn't] want to get into a story about my career at the time" (including apparently where and how he contracted HIV), claimed that in 2004, he predicted another HIV "outbreak because of the same thing" (which, of course, never happened), and that the industry is "not policed properly." Finally, Case claimed that, "The first scene I ever did when I got into porn, my agent produced a forged AIDS test; I had never been tested for AIDS in my life"—a claim she apparently made for the first time at this event.
AHF in-house attorney Brian Chase, the author of the ballot initiative, described its legal underpinnings: "This initiative stands for a very, very simple principle, that when someone takes out a license from the city of Los Angeles, when the city of Los Angeles grants a business the right to film, then that grant of a license comes with conditions, and one of those conditions is obeying the law. A preexisting law already mandates the use of barrier protections to protect workers in the adult film industry from infection... This industry cannot continue to seek film permits from the city of Los Angeles ... until they are willing to start agreeing with the law."
"The producers have been pretty unified in their opposition to this," Weinstein admitted in answer to a reporter's question. "Ultimately, though, we don't rely on support of an industry to regulate itself; we saw how well that worked with banks... so I don't expect construction companies to support having tighter rules to protect workers. The reality is that you can't protect adult industry performers 100 percent. Condoms will not prevent all sexually transmitted diseases, but it's a reasonable accommodation."
Unless, of course, most people don't buy all-condom product—a deduction easily made from the fact that several gay companies currently produce bareback (non-condom) videos, which have gained in popularity over the past several years. Moreover, Weinstein failed to address the First Amendment ramifications of forcing the adult industry to produce only an approved type of sexual speech.
According to AHF's press release, the signature gathering firm which AHF has employed will have to collect 41,138 signatures from registered Los Angeles voters, and to aid in doing so AHF has inaugurated a new campaign, "For Adult Industry Responsibility," which will serve as the official face of the forced-condom (but not "barrier protection") attempt.
"Clearly AHF has an anti-adult industry agenda and like its previous frivolous lawsuits, erroneous charges with CalOSHA, multiple press conferences and protests, I suspect that this is the next step in AHF’s attempt to stay relevant," FSC's Duke assessed. "Clearly their efforts and financial resources would be much better served in the prevention and treatment of HIV rather than continuing its witch hunt of the adult entertainment industry."