Lawsuit Says Porn Stars Are Lying to You

Performers pose at an adult video shoot. A lawsuit accuses opponents of condoms-for-porn initiative of lying.
Performers pose at an adult video shoot. A lawsuit accuses opponents of condoms-for-porn initiative of lying.
Gustavo Turner/L.A. Weekly

A former porn star has filed a lawsuit in state court that accuses opponents of a ballot measure requiring adult film actors to wear condoms of making "false and misleading statements" in their efforts to convince voters to reject the proposal.

The suit, filed last week by former porn actor Derrick Burts and other backers of Proposition 60, names state Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco and several other opponents of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation–backed measure, claiming they have filed statements with state election officials that contain lies about the law, which is up for vote in November. 

Now, you can lie during a political campaign, of course. Donald Trump seems to have mastered the art. But you can't lie in ballot measure summaries, ballot arguments and ballot rebuttals published in the California Voter Guide — which is exactly what the suit is alleging. Burts, who contracted HIV while performing, and the Yes on 60 campaign are seeking a writ of mandate, or correction, to the opponents' statements on the measure before an Aug. 15 deadline.

If passed, Proposition 60 would set in stone mandatory condoms for porn shoots. State workplace health officials already say they're required, and Los Angeles County voters passed a similar law in 2012.

The San Fernando Valley–based adult video industry has fought mandatory condoms at every step and has issued an ongoing threat to leave the state over the requirement. However, California is one of only two states in the nation (New Hampshire is the other) that expressly permits what would otherwise be considered prostitution — payment for sex performed on-camera.

The industry has said that consumers don't want to see actors wearing condoms and that forcing them on performers would only send production underground, where they would be less safe. It argues that its twice-a-month STD testing for porn stars works.  

The suit also names California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, as well as additional signers of the opposition summary, including other porn actors. Plaintiffs allege the group lied when it wrote that the measure would cost taxpayers "tens of millions in state and local tax revenue;" and would allow any Californian to sue any porn star and thus obtain their names and personal info.

In a review of the initiative filed last month, the state Legislative Analyst's Office wrote that most of the costs incurred by enforcing the law "would be covered by new fees on adult film producers." The office also says "penalties [including, ostensibly, lawsuits] will not apply to adult film performers or employees, so long as those individuals have no financial interest in a film and are not producers of the film."

"The language in question submitted to the Secretary of State by the adult film industry and the Free Speech Coalition misrepresents several significant parts of Proposition 60," said Yes on Proposition 60 consultant Rick Taylor.

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The Free Speech Coalition is adult video's L.A.-based trade association. A spokesman for the FSC said the group "will be contesting" the suit.

The organization also said this in a statement:

Proposition 60 is 13 pages of detailed legalese that gives every resident of California the right to sue adult film performers. Perhaps AHF’s only strategy with the flawed initiative is to try and fool voters.

Here are the facts: Proposition 60 is opposed by the California Democratic Party, California Republican Party, California Libertarian Party, as well as civil rights and public health organizations including Equality California and the Los Angeles LGBTQ Center, and the Adult Performer Advocacy Committee (APAC), the largest independent performer organization in the industry.

We call on AHF to immediately withdraw its rebuttal and stop trying to mislead voters. 

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