Porn producers threaten to flee LA after condom law passes

 

Los Angeles

Porn producers are threatening to quit filming in Los Angeles after voters approved a measure requiring adult-movie actors to wear condoms during shoots to protect them from sexually transmitted diseases.

The industry asked the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to delay implementing Measure B, which also mandates that producers acquire public health permits. Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, an industry trade group, said it would challenge the initiative and trust the "calm, serious deliberations of the legal system" to prove it's unconstitutional.

"It doesn't change anything — we'll simply shoot in Hawaii, Mexico or the desert," Larry Flynt, publisher of Hustler magazine, said in a telephone interview. "We'll fly to Cabo for a week or 10 days. It's not a big deal."

Measure B, sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, "is going to have a dramatic effect on our economy," said Stuart Waldman, president of the Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Valley Industry and Commerce Association, which represents businesses in the San Fernando Valley, the part of Los Angeles where most adult-movies are made.

Steven Hirsch, founder of Los Angeles-based adult entertainment company Vivid Entertainment Group, said he expected some producers to start filming in Las Vegas.

"Ultimately, we'll find a solution, because performers don't want to be mandated to wearing condoms," he said. "Producers and the viewing public also don't want it."

Measure B won 56 percent of the vote, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder. It requires condoms for all acts of anal or vaginal sex during the production of adult films, and was supported by groups including the American Medical Association and the American Public Health Association.

Proponents of the measure spent $2.1 million, while the No on B campaign spent $314,000, according to Irene Wear of the registar's office. Supporters included health-care professionals and some former porn actors. The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the U.S., according to its website.

The Los Angeles Times, in its editorial pages, recommended voters reject the initiative, saying it may "stymie county government and bring little benefit to performers."

The newspaper said the industry employs "thousands of sound, lighting, stage, technical and other crew members and post-production workers in between gigs in more-mainstream film and television productions."

The industry accounts for about $1 billion in revenue in the county, according to Valley Industry and Commerce Association. The condom mandate would "destroy the commercial value of the product," said Theo Sapoutzis, chief executive officer of the trade publication Adult Video News.

Supporters of the measure, called the County of Los Angeles Safer Sex in the Adult Film Industry Act, said it would protect entertainers and the public at large.

"It isn't fair that people, and the community as a whole, are contracting infections, some of them life threatening and lifelong, in order to make a living," according to the argument in favor of Measure B in the county voter guide. "Pornographers should not be exempt from the basic safety rules that protect everyone else. Public health should not be sacrificed on the false claim that this is a free speech issue."

There haven't been any HIV cases in the industry since 2004, according to Vivid Entertainment's Hirsch, who said performers are tested every 28 days, with results posted online.

Amber Lynn, a porn actress who opposed the measure, said on Twitter that actors should wear flesh-toned condoms to hide their presence.

"The adult industry will survive," she wrote. "It always has."

— With assistance from Christopher Palmeri in Los Angeles.

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