Measure requiring condoms in porn gains enough signatures for November ballot in Los Angeles County

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(CBS News) Porn actors in the city of Los Angeles have been required to wear condoms since March, following the passage of a controversial city ordinance. In November, voters will get decide if a similar measure should be applied to 85 other cities in L.A. County.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a petition for a measure backed by AIDS Healthcare Foundation that requires condoms for all pornography actors under the penalty of fines or criminal charges has gained 371,000 signatures in five months. To get a measure on the ballot, 232,000 signatures are required.

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Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is thrilled the measure will be voted on this November during a presidential election, where voter turnout is expected to be high.

"This ordinance, modeled after the county's similar health permitting process for tattoo and massage parlors and bathhouses, should go a long way to improve safety on the sets for adult film performers," Weinstein said in a press release. "We are grateful that officials from the city of Los Angeles already acted earlier this year to adopt a similar citywide measure, and now we look forward to taking this measure directly to voters throughout the county of Los Angeles in November."

If voters approve the measure, adult film producers will need to pay a fee and get a permit from the county's Department of Public Health. County officials would then be able to suspend or revoke the permit for violations, and could also hit producers with fines or misdemeanor charges for not adhering to the rules, according to the Times. Of the 88 cities in Los Angeles County, Pasadena, Long Beach and Vernon would be excluded because they have their own public health departments.

In January, Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signed into a law a similar Los Angeles City Council ordinance requiring condoms on porn film sets. The council had previously voted 11-1 to pass the measure. The move prompted the porn industry to threaten to leave the city. About 90 percent of U.S. porn movies are filmed in Los Angeles, most in the city's San Fernando Valley suburb. The industry rakes in an estimated $8 billion each year; critics argued requiring condoms would cut into profits.

Weinstein and fellow advocates argue that porn actors face major risks when performing and need to be protected. In 2010, actor Derrick Burts tested positive for HIV, prompting the industry to temporarily shut down as actors were tested. In August of 2011, an adult film performer tested positive for HIV also causing the industry to halt production, but a retest was found to be negative.

"The people are ahead of the politicians on this issue," Weinstein told the Times. "There's never been something on the ballot as sexually explicit as this, so it's going to be excellent education for people."

A request for comment sent to the Free Speech Coalition, the trade association of the adult film industry, was not returned at press time.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says latex condoms, when used correctly and consistently, has been conclusively proven highly effective at preventing heterosexual transmission of HIV. However, the agency also adds, condoms cannot provide "absolute protection" against the disease.


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