Most Californians support initiative to require adult-film actors to use condoms

A majority of Californians support an initiative on the November ballot to require performers in adult films to use condoms during sex scenes, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll of registered voters conducted by SurveyMonkey.

Fifty-five percent said they would back Proposition 60 if the election were held today, the survey found. The measure, which was proposed by Michael Weinstein, the controversial president of the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, is based on a similar initiative in Los Angeles County, Measure B, which voters approved in 2012 with 56% of the vote.

The Los Angeles County measure, which was sponsored by five people affiliated with the foundation, requires porn actors to wear condoms during scenes depicting anal and vaginal intercourse. The measure survived a legal battle over its constitutionality earlier this year.

Of those polled, 32% said they would vote against the statewide measure, while 13% had no answer. The online poll of 1,909 registered California voters was conducted Sept. 1-8 in English and Spanish and has a margin-of-error estimate of 3 percentage points.

The poll found a 20-point gender gap among respondents: 64% of women polled supported the measure, while only 44% of men did. The measure had strong backing from minority voters, with 58% of African Americans and 63% of Latinos supporting it. 

The initiative would also require adult film producers to pay for vaccinations and testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Producers would have to get a state health license every two years and notify the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health whenever they shoot a film. Violations could result in fines of up to $70,000.

The proposition would likely lead to a loss of several million dollars in state and local tax revenues each year if porn production leaves the state, according to an analysis by the state's independent Legislative Analyst's Office. The cost to enforce the measure could exceed $1 million annually, though it could be offset by new revenue from fines.

Rick Taylor, a consultant for the Yes on Proposition 60 campaign, said he was pleased with the results.

“Our numbers show us a bit higher,” he said, referring to polling done by the campaign showing 70% voter approval. “We think Californians are getting it: This is about workers’ safety.”

But Doug Herman, a Los Angeles Democratic consultant, said the proposition is not a sure bet to pass.

The proposition has not gotten as much news coverage as other high-profile questions on the ballot including whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana or to further regulate ammunition sales, he said.

“Fifty-five percent is not a position where you can bank on a victory,” he said. “You can start at 55%, but the other side is going to raise doubts and that is going to fall.” 

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The measure is opposed by the Free Speech Coalition, a Canoga Park-based trade association for the adult film industry, though both the state Republican and Democratic parties have come out against the measure, as have the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and AIDS Project Los Angeles.

One sticking point: The initiative would also allow California residents to ask the state to investigate alleged workplace health and safety violations and to pursue civil suits against an adult film's producers or anyone with a financial interest in the production if the state does not take certain actions. 

Opponents of the initiative say if the measure passes, it will open the floodgates to frivolous lawsuits. 

In a letter opposing the measure, James Loduca, a senior vice president of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, said those suits could lead to harassment of porn actors.

“The adult film industry will be driven underground or to places that offer few protections for workers,” he wrote. “The measure also completely ignores recent developments in HIV biomedical prevention.”

Mike Stabile, a spokesman for the Free Speech Coalition, criticized the measure as a heavy-handed and one-sided approach to regulation. 

He noted that the board of the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health voted down a condom requirement proposal in February and has already begun the process of setting new safety standards. Some porn actors who spoke before the vote protested a particular part of the proposal that would have required performers to ensure that their eyes were protected from infection by blood-borne pathogens. They argued the state could eventually force them to wear safety goggles.

Just last month the board approved the creation of an advisory committee to determine new regulations that includes representatives from the adult film industry. 

That is another reason some including state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) have opposed the measure.

"The pending initiative undermines this process and seeks to dictate the outcome of the collaborative process,” Leno wrote in a letter to the state Democratic Party this summer. “This administrative process should go forward without interference from this pending initiative." 

The Yes on Prop. 60 campaign has reported $1.8 million in contributions, all of it coming from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, while the opposition group has reported just $87,000 raised, according to the California Secretary of State. 

javier.panzar@latimes.com

Twitter: jpanzar

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