Porn stars in LA must continue to wear condoms, US appeals court rules

A three-judge panel upheld a 2012 Los Angeles County ordinance

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The Independent US

Porn actors in Los Angeles must continue to wear condoms during sexual intercourse scenes – after a US federal court ruled the law does not violate the porn industry's First Amendment rights of free expression.

Three judges from the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the Los Angeles County ordinance requiring actors to wear condoms should be upheld.

The porn industry had argued that the practice would interfere with a film's fantasy element by subjecting viewers to real-word concerns like pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

And it said it already had adequate safety regulations in place to protect the health of its actors.

For the First Amendment argument to apply, the court ruled, there would have to be a great likelihood that a film's audience would understand the intended message the makers might hope to convey by depicting unprotected sex.

“Here, we agree with the district court that, whatever unique message plaintiffs might intend to convey by depicting condomless sex, it is unlikely that viewers of adult films will understand that message,” said Judge Susan P. Graber, writing for the panel's majority.

There have been a number of HIV and other STD outbreaks in the porn industry over the years. In the 1980s almost 30 actors died after contracting HIV. And in 2004 the industry was shut down for 30 days after Darren James tested positive and urgent tests were carried out on other cast members.

First adopted in 2012, the ordinance was championed by the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation as a means of reducing sexually transmitted diseases. The foundation's president, Michael Weinstein, hailed Monday's ruling as a “total vindication.”

“The court struck down every one of their arguments,” he said of the porn industry, which sued to have the measure overturned.

But for the industry the ban has seen the number of film permits in Los Angeles plummet from 485 in 2012 to just 40 last year. Industry officials have said some filmmakers stopped paying for permits and simply went underground while others moved film shoots to neighbouring counties or states.

They also say audiences don't want to see condoms in films. They also say the industry's own safety regulations, requiring actors be tested for venereal disease every two to four weeks, are sufficient.

In addressing that issue, the appeals court cited a 2009 letter from the Los Angeles County Department of Health stating the rate of venereal disease infection for porn actors is 20 per cent, compared with only 2.4 per cent for the general public.

It is unclear whether the case will go to the Supreme Court.

Additional reporting by agencies

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