by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
A bill designed to protect porn actors by requiring the use of condoms during film shoots died in a California Senate committee on August 14.
The bill, known as AB 1576, would have extended similar legislation passed by Los Angeles County - the center of U.S. porn production - to the whole state of California, but the committee adjourned for the current legislative session without discussing it.
The bill, like the LA County ordinance, was introduced in 2012 after several porn actors tested HIV-positive.
California Assemblyman Isadore Hall of Compton, the prime sponsor of the bill, said he would re-introduce it in the next legislative session. The bill is important, Hall said, because health and safety on porn sets is a workers' rights issue affecting people no one else wants to stand up for.
'Here is the dirty little secret about porn production in California: It's just work,' Hall said. 'Take away the racy titles and creative storylines found in many of these films and adult film actors become, well, just workers.'
Hall said the move to protect their health was like other civil rights struggles.
'Black people weren't freed overnight,' Hall said. 'It took a process. Anytime you want to give people a voice, it's a fight.'
AIDS Healthcare Foundation Executive Director Michael Weinstein, a community supporter of the measure, said he also would not give up on it.
'It's not going to discourage us,' Weinstein promised. 'It took a very long time to get needle exchange in California. Almost 20 years.'
Weinstein said that the legislation had made significant progress in the two years it has been before the California legislature. Last year, it never got out of committee, he noted, while this year it passed in the full Assembly.
With more some $11 billion in annual sales worldwide, the porn industry is a huge part of California's economy. It reportedly generates 10,000 to 20,000 production-related jobs, most of them in LA County.
The industry has set up its own political group, the so-called Free Speech Coalition, to argue against government regulations. Free Speech Coalition spokesperson Diane Duke said the industry saw the bill as an 'assault' on their business.
'The assault had unintended consequences - it unified performers and producers in ways that we haven't seen in decades,' Duke said in a statement.
'Out of this grows a stronger industry, one not intimidated by harassment campaigns like AB 1576. But the battle is not actually over, for we must always work to make sure our productions are safe and legal, that our performers have a strong voice in their own sexual health, and to keep a thriving industry in California.'
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is no political lightweight either. A multimillion-dollar agency with more than 200 clinics worldwide, it took in more than $188 million in grants, donations, and government contracts in 2012, and Weinstein is recognized as a leading spokesperson on HIV/AIDS issues.
Weinstein maintains that condom use on porn shoots is already mandated under existing state and federal regulations.
'Regardless of whether AB 1576 became law this year, condom use already is - and has been - the law in California under existing Cal/OSHA authority,' he said in a statement. 'The porn industry has simply chosen to ignore these laws, with few, if any, repercussions to date for producers.'
Weinstein added that Cal/OSHA, the agency charged with enforcing workplace health and safety regulations, has been overhauling and expanding regulations that would cover the adult film industry.
'When enacted later this fall, these updated OSHA regulations could, in fact, make the need for a bill like AB 1576 moot,' he said.
Recent reports indicate that since the LA County ordinance requiring condoms on porn shoots went into effect, the number of permits for porn movies has dropped 90%. Porn producers said they were moving their business to places where health and safety regulations are less strict, but critics of the industry charged that producers were simply shooting illegal unpermitted films.
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