AIDS group seeks Los Angeles referendum on porn star condom use

LOS ANGELES Mon Dec 5, 2011 9:03pm EST

Activists hold signs during a rally in support of the use of condoms in the adult film industry in West Hollywood, California June 15, 2009.   REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Activists hold signs during a rally in support of the use of condoms in the adult film industry in West Hollywood, California June 15, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Voters in the city of Los Angeles, home to the nation's porn industry, could be asked next year whether condoms should be required in adult film shoots to cut down on sexually transmitted diseases.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation said on Monday it had submitted about 71,000 signatures, surpassing the required number of 41,000, for a ballot initiative that could go before voters in June 2012.

If the signatures are certified by city officials and a vote is held on the measure, residents would be asked whether to force Los Angeles officials to require the use of condoms on porn sets as a condition for film permits.

California officials say the porn industry is already covered by workplace rules that protect employees from blood-borne pathogens, and condoms are required in cases where adult film performers could be exposed to infection.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health has issued over $125,000 in fines against porn producers in the past five years for various violations, but some of those citations are on appeal, according to figures from the agency.

Despite facing fines, most major porn companies continue to shoot without condoms, and some in the industry have argued that using the latex would take away from the fantasy appeal of their product.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation said that Los Angeles city officials and the local county's public health agency have been slow to crack down on the porn industry.

"We're confident about our ability to win an initiative on an election," said Michael Weinstein, the foundation's president. "We say, why continue to frustrate ourselves trying to get the politicians to stand up and do something, when the people seem to be ahead of them."

The multibillion dollar U.S. porn industry is largely based in Los Angeles, and specifically in the city's sprawling San Fernando Valley suburb.

Porn producers have said they could move outside of California or even outside the country if increased regulation made condom use unavoidable.

A representative from adult industry group the Free Speech Coalition did not return a call or e-mail seeking comment, and a representative from the city's film permitting agency could not be reached for comment.

Former porn star Derrick Burts, 25, who said he was infected with HIV on a porn shoot in 2010, said some porn performers would like to wear condoms, but they will not go against the wishes of their producers.

"In this industry, you fight for every dollar you can make, because when you get into this industry, it's hard to get out and make a normal living because your face is everywhere as someone who's done porn," Burts said.

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)