The porn industry celebrated a rare victory in a summer of bummers.
A proposed law, AB 640, that would have explicitly required male adult performers to use condoms on-set, died a quiet death over the weekend. The legislation was sponsored by L.A. area Assemblyman Isadore Hall. The pro-condom AIDS Healthcare Foundation alleges that the bill was blocked by another L.A. assemblyman, Mike Gatto:
The adult biz lobbying group known as the Free Speech Coalition praised AB 640's last-minute demise, which happened as Sacramento worked out the last laws of the legislative session.
Diane Duke, FSC's CEO said this in a statement sent to the Weekly and other outlets:
Thankfully, science won over scare tactics. Three performers did test positive for HIV in the past month, but none of them contracted it on an adult set. Politicians tried to use concern about HIV to push through a mandate opposed by both performers and producers.
The bill died in the Senate Rules Committee. Without naming names, Duke thanked those who helped block the bill:
A number of people put forth a great deal of effort, to make sure this bill would not see the light of day. From our coalition partners to the performers and countless industry members who showed up in Sacramento to protest, we owe you all a debt of gratitude. This was truly a team effort, thank you.
Two weeks ago the AIDS Healthcare Foundation put blame squarely on L.A. state rep Gatto, who is chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The group, which spearheaded L.A. county's own mandatory condoms rule for porn, called Gatto “”a pornographer's best friend.”
Gatto has argued against the bill, saying its costs had yet to be determined. He also cited concerns over the constitutionality of legislating on-screen content (a court recently ruled there were no constitutional concerns).
But he maintained that he had nothing to do with the bill's failure. He told the Weekly in a statement:
It's clear that AHF is trying to bully the legislature into spending taxpayer money, and that they don't understand the legislative process. I would expect that Isadore Hall would explain to them that AB 640 is not before me, it's before the Senate. There are two houses of government, and I don't have a vote in the Senate, let alone control it.
The Glendale News-Press columnist Ron Kaye explained Gatto's alleged role this way:
It is a long-standing rule of the legislature, one that is only violated in exceptional circumstances, that a bill held in a committee of one house cannot be taken up in the other house without the express permission of the committee chair, in this case Mike Gatto, or the Speaker, currently John Pérez.
As Kaye notes the Valley Industry and Commerce Association says the mostly porn industry is worth $6 billion a year for the community it represents. The group, of course, was against the bill.
The industry argues that consumers don't want to see condom porn. And it insists that its monthly testing of performers works.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation has been working for years to get the industry to use condoms on-set. The group sites this month's HIV outbreak as an example of why performers should cover up, so to speak.
In any case, the state condom law would have been redundant.
Not only does the county technically require condom use in most parts of L.A., but the state and federal government also appear to think condoms are the law when it comes to worker protection from bloodborne pathogens.
The issue for now is finding the resources to enforce the rules.