Porn Industry Praises L.A. Times' Editorial on AB 1576
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Los Angeles Times opinion piece against AB 1576 over the weekend could put pressure on legislators to permanently keep the porn-condom bill in "suspense."
AB 1576, sponsored by Assemblyman Isadore Hall of Compton, was tabled — placed in the "suspense file" — by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week. The committee will again decide its fate on Thursday.
On Sunday, the Times became the second Los Angeles paper to come out opposed to AB 1576; the Daily News of Los Angeles also has come out in opposition of it.
In the Times piece, the editorial board said that there will be a greater risk to performers and, thus, the general public if AB 1576 ever becomes law.
"[I]f the pornography business leaves its base in California and becomes fragmented around the globe, the industry's testing protocols will be weakened and performers will be at greater risk of getting sick," the Times editorial board wrote.
The Daily News editorial, published last week, said that "such a law would do for the state what it has done for the county, driving away legal production and jobs, without proven public-health benefits."
Jeffrey Douglas, the Free Speech Coalition's board chair, said that the Times editorial from "the most dominant newspaper in the state was enormously important" for several reasons.
"It demonstrates an important editorial shift for the newspaper which has editorially historically been, at best, hands off, if not openly hostile to the industry," Douglas told XBIZ. "This is a result of very effective communications between Diane Duke and the editorial board over the past few years. [Times staffer] Jim Newton also wrote an op-ed piece opposing AB 1576 a few days earlier.
"Additionally it instructs us that our messaging is effective. It is always dangerous for an insulated industry such as ours to make assumptions how the broader public will receive our advocacy.
"The two pieces in the Times reflects our messaging so strongly that we can be more confident that we are articulating our position well.
"My assumption is that for legislators trying to decide leaning toward opposing AB 1576, the editorial will give them cover and strength. I doubt that it will change any minds. I believe that there is a consensus that the bill is stupid and counter-productive. It is a question of the self-interest in the political dynamics within the Legislature (who has bills pending before Isadore Hall's committee, for example) that will strongly effect the outcome.
"If (the fates forbid) this piece of shit gets passed out of the Senate, we shall lobby the governor for a veto. I assume that the Times editorial would be a great asset in that effort."
Marc Randazza, an adult entertainment industry attorney based in Las Vegas who traveled to Sacramento in April to offer his opinion to an Assembly panel that voted in favor of the bill, said that legislators should closely follow the passages of the Times' piece but that their hearts and minds might get in the way.
"I hope they listen, but support for AB 1576 has never been based on logic or intelligence," Randazza told XBIZ on Monday. "It has been based on manipulated emotion and lies.
"One of the most AIDS-devastated district in California is Isadore Hall's district, and instead of doing something for his district, he's obsessed with lying to the public and the Legislature to push through his pet bill, coated with his hackneyed bombastic lies.
"So, ask yourself this: Is Isadore Hall smart enough to understand all the words in the editorial? I doubt it. If so, are the kinds of morons who vote for the likes of him intelligent enough? Nope."
Mike Stabile, an adult entertainment publicist and industry observer who along with performers and producers met with the Times editorial board in July, said that the opinion piece against AB 1576 "is hugely significant, and a game changer."
"The Los Angeles Times is not only one of the country's most influential newspapers, it's a publication that knows a vast amount about the adult industry and the lives of adult performers — as well as the motives of bill's backers," Stabile told XBIZ.
"So when it says that the real effects of a bill like AB 1576 will be to the detriment of performers, and that it would be 'mind-boggling' for legislators to back it, you can bet that Sacramento is listening."
Another adult entertainment attorney, Allan B. Gelbard of Tarzana, Calif., located in the epicenter of Los Angeles' Porn Valley, said the Times editorial board got it right on target. And Gelbard said that he too hopes legislators closely read the editorial
"I was quite pleased that the Times would come out so strongly against AB 1576. I do think California's legislators will take notice," Gelbard told XBIZ. FSC should mail every one of them a copy!
"I was also pleased how they discussed the damage that Measure B has wrought. Hopefully, we won't have to wait too much longer for the 9th Circuit to decide Vivid's appeal and that they will recognize that Measure B was unconstitutional," he said.
Peter Acworth, founder and CEO of Kink.com, told XBIZ that the Times piece indeed will generate steam.
"Newspapers reflect public opinion, and legislators pay close attention because that is where their votes come from," Acworth said.
The Times editorial follows:
Nearly two years ago, Los Angeles County voters passed Measure B, a controversial ballot proposal requiring adult film actors to use condoms when performing sex scenes. The law was presented to voters as a public health measure designed to prevent workers in the so-called porn capital of the world from contracting and spreading HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases.
But there's no evidence that the law has had its intended effect. Instead, many adult film production companies have moved their shoots outside of the county — and in some cases, out of the state or country. Others have stopped filing for county film permits and have reportedly continued to shoot without complying with the condom mandate. In all, the number of permits issued to adult films in L.A. County dropped 90% in 2013 after Measure B went into effect, and there is no indication that porn stars are any safer today than they were two years ago.
Given Los Angeles County's experience, it's mind-boggling that so many state legislators have backed a bill that would essentially expand Measure B statewide. Assembly Bill 1576 would require film producers to document that actors use condoms during vaginal or anal intercourse, and it would require regular HIV and STD testing of actors.
The bill's author, Assemblyman Isadore Hall III (D-Compton), has argued that porn stars are workers and deserve a safe workplace. He's right. Performers should use condoms and producers should encourage them to do so. In 2010, The Times editorial board supported a proposed ordinance in L.A. that would have required condoms in adult film productions.
But upon further research, it became clear that government is ill-equipped to mandate and enforce the use of condoms on adult film sets. In fact, state occupational health regulations already call on all employers to prevent their workers from being exposed to blood, semen and saliva in the course of their job — and regulators have interpreted that to mean that porn actors must use condoms. But the rules are routinely ignored, and the state doesn't have the staff to inspect film sets, which, by the very nature of the business, are often in under-the-radar locations such as homes.
Industry leaders argue that their voluntary system of testing actors every two weeks for HIV and STDs, and providing the results to producers, agents and other performers, is a better, more practical way to prevent the spread of disease on set. And there is concern that if the pornography business leaves its base in California and becomes fragmented around the globe, the industry's testing protocols will be weakened and performers will be at greater risk of getting sick.
When the editorial board opposed Measure B in 2012, we said that its proponents were taking an attitude of "let's pass it and see what happens." Well, now we know what happened. Legislators should learn from L.A. County's experience and reject AB 1576.