AHF Attacks LA City Attorney on Condom Initiative Lawsuit

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is apparently more fearful of the lawsuit recently filed by Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich than it's willing to let on. That may be why they spent at least half an hour between two press conferences—one live and one by telephone—attacking Trutanich on his concerns that putting AHF's "mandatory condoms (and other 'barrier protections') in porn" ballot initiative, which was just certified by the LA City Clerk, on the June 5, 2012 city ballot will cost upwards of $4 million, and which will lead to further large expenditures for the city as adult companies fight the measure both before and, if passed, after it's voted on.

"Mr. Trutanich, it is time to stop wasting the city's money on this frivolous lawsuit," claimed AHF president Michael Weinstein. "Mr. Trutanich, it is time to stop trying to thwart the democratic system and honor the rights of 71,000 Angelenos who signed these petitions. You know that the people want this initiative, and you want to prevent them from voting on it."

But as has so often been the case, Weinstein was less than truthful in describing the process by which signatures for the initiative were collected.

"We didn't know what the reaction would be to people, you know, standing in front of a supermarket, asking people to sign a petition about porn," Weinstein told a reporter from CNN.com, "but what people recognized was that this really wasn't about porn; it was really about worker protection and it was really about fairness, and what we've found was, regardless of gender, regardless of age, regardless of party registration, it was very easy to collect these signatures."

However, AVN has heard from several sources who were asked to sign the petitions, and in each case, the approach by the signature gatherer was to frame the petition as a method to "fight HIV" and not to mention the adult industry at all—even though there hasn't been a reported HIV transmission on a (hetero) California porn set since 2004—and most gay sets already use condoms!

At the press conference, Weinstein also called on the Los Angeles City Council to sidestep the initiative process and enact the measure directly, which by law it would have to do by January 12.

"Los Angeles City Council, it is time to step up to the plate," Weinstein charged. "Fair is fair. Protect the rights of these performers. Los Angeles City Council, don't pass the buck again as you have in the past. City Council, stop the bickering. End this lawsuit. Approve this law."

After lauding CalOSHA as "the only government agency which has consistently protected these performers," Weinstein continued, "It is now the city's turn. Soon it will be the county's turn. Everyone has a role to play here to end the unsafe working conditions of these performers. Stop this blot on the reputation of our community. Fair is fair. Los Angeles needs to get on the right side of history. The right side of history is stopping the thousands of sexually transmitted infections that take place in this industry."

Leaving aside Weinstein's threat to mount yet another initiative drive at the county level, he should already know that the claim of "thousands of sexually transmitted infections" in porn has been debunked by both the statistics gathered by AIM Associates before CalOSHA and AHF drove that company out of business, as well as the metastudy performed by epidemiologist Dr. Lawrence S. Mayer. And despite Weinstein's channeling of the battle cry voiced by Helen Slater's titular character in The Legend of Billie Jean, there's nothing "fair" about forcing adult performers, who are tested monthly for a variety of STDs, to use condoms, dental dams, goggles and face shields while attempting to practice their craft. They don't want it, and the vast majority of their customers don't want it.

Weinstein turned the mic over to Brian Chase, AHF's assistant general counsel, who likened Trutanich's lawsuit to the attempt to keep Proposition 8, which deprived the state's gays of the right to marry, off the ballot—perhaps not the smartest analogy he could have offered.

"In speaking with some people at City Hall, I was given the impression that some folks think that the reason for this lawsuit to try to keep this initiative from going to the voters is to provide some sort of clarity," Chase opined. "Carmen Trutanich seems to argue that if we just go in front of a trial court, then this whole thing will be resolved and we'll know whether or not this is a good law. Carmen Trutanich should know better. I was one of the lawyers who tried to keep Prop 8 off the ballot. That measure passed, and now four years later, there's still no clear answer as to whether or not Prop 8 is constitutional. If we have a hearing in front of a judge in December, that's not going to give us any clarity. That's going to give us an appeal, and then maybe an appeal to the Supreme Court."

But Prop 8 is indeed like AHF's initiative: A bad idea from its conception, the battle to secure marital rights for gays has already cost millions in legal fees and expenses, and will undoubtedly cost millions if not tens of millions more—and in the case of the AHF initiative, all to stop FilmLA, the agency which approves filming permits for production companies in the city, from issuing permits to adult companies unless they promise that all sex scenes will use condoms and the other "barrier protections" required for hospital workers and the like in the state health code.

And speaking of the health code, AHF has recently been trumpeting an email sent to Trutanich from Ellen Widess, the new CalOSHA chief, which (according to AHF) affirms the opinions in the letter from CalOSHA attorney James Clark last July, which as AVN previously reported, doesn't say what AHF and its supporters claim it says.

"We respectfully disagree with your interpretation conveyed in your September 9, 2011 letter to James Clark, in response to his letter of July 20," Widess wrote in part to Trutanich in response to a letter from his office dated September 9, 2011. "We remain convinced that the City of Los Angeles is not preempted by Cal/OSHA from asserting its authority to protect the health of employees and others, including volunteers, who may be exposed to health hazards in L.A.'s adult film industry. We believe that cities and counties can regulate under their police power unless specifically restricted by something else, and our Blood Borne Pathogen standard does not provide that restriction."

What's puzzling, though, is that Widess added this caveat: "I cannot speak for the Cal/OSHA Standards Board." That, of course, would be the Board that is still considering AHF's petition to change the health code to specifically require adult performers to use condoms and other "barrier protections" while performing sex scenes and other forms of bodily contact, and which has held half a dozen meetings over the past 18 months to discuss that petition.

AVN has requested copies of both the City Attorney's letter and Widess's response, and will report further if either has been mischaracterized by AHF.

Finally, Weinstein introduced Mark Roy McGrath, formerly of UCLA's Reproductive Health Interest Group and now an AHF "consultant," who claimed that "One in four [performers] will be reinfected within one year," and that, "What is clear is that the performer community carries a disproportionate amount of the community disease burden for sexually transmitted infections."

Of course, McGrath can't know that since, as Dr. Mayer pointed out, the city Department of Public Health doesn't really know how many Angelenos are actually infected with sexually transmitted diseases—but whatthehell: He was on a roll.

"In Nevada, where they have legal venues for sex, for sex work, since the implementation of condoms, prevalence of sexually transmitted infections amongst legal sex workers has dropped below that of the general population. There have been no cases of workplace acquired HIV," McGrath stated.

What McGrath failed to notice is that the "johns" being serviced by Nevada's brothel industry are generally not tested for sexually transmitted infections—as adult performers currently are and have been for a number of years, plus the vast majority of their sexual interactions are with other performers and their own "significant others," decreasing even more the chance of infection.

During the Q&A that followed the speakers' presentations, Weinstein again called on the public and the press to browbeat both LA County supervisors and City Council members to urge or require Trutanich to drop his lawsuit.

"There will be another [City Council] vote after the 12th on dropping the lawsuit, which has to be voted on by the 20th," Weinstein said. "So this is really the time for the City Council to step up to the plate."

Like we said above: Fearful.