LA Times Editorial Board Denounces ‘Mind-Boggling’ AB1576

LOS ANGELES—While it may be fair to say that Los Angeles Times’ editorializing on the mandatory-condoms-in-porn issue has over the years been somewhat uneven, the venerable paper’s editorial board as well as individual staffers appear determined to establish a new level of consistency on the subject. To that end, this week alone has seen the L.A. Times publish three separate opinion pieces expressing opposition to the passage of the latest mandatory condom legislation, Assemblyman Isadore Hall’s AB 1576, including an editorial by the Editorial Board published this morning, exactly one week after Times op-ed regular Jim Newton published an individual critique of Hall’s legislative effort and four days after Times editorial writer Kerry Cavanaugh did similarly.

In today’s editorial, the board not only stakes out a concise position against the passage of AB 1576, about which it says, “It’s mind-boggling that so many state legislators have backed a bill that would essentially expand Measure B statewide,” but it makes its case based on two years of experience with local Measure B. It also significantly addresses its current position against the backdrop of its own previous editorializing on the subject, framing today’s effort as a mea culpa as much as an editorial.

Better late than never, though, especially with the perspective and benefit of those two years, which the editorial board wastes no time in using: “Nearly two years ago,” it begins, “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.”

A pause for dramatic effect: “But there's no evidence that the law has had its intended effect.”

What follows is a short list of what those two years have wrought: “Instead,” observes the editorial board, “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.”

It is for those reasons alone, it adds, that the board calls the support in Sacramento for AB 1576 “mind-boggling.” But it also further argues that while Assemblyman Hall is “right” when he says that “performers should use condoms and producers should encourage them to do so,” and points out that, “In 2010, The Times editorial board supported a proposed ordinance in L.A. that would have required condoms in adult film productions,” the board, building on the caution it expressed in 2012 about Measure B, now reveals without a shred of uncertainty that, “upon further research, it became clear that government is ill-equipped to mandate and enforce the use of condoms on adult film sets.”

But the record is even worse for proponents of the Hall bill. “In fact,” adds the board, “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.”

Closing out their editorial, the board makes a final point regarding any efforts that exacerbate the porn industry leaving its “base in California and [becoming] fragmented around the globe,” auguring that if such efforts succeed, “the industry's testing protocols will be weakened and performers will be at greater risk of getting sick.”

The editorial concludes, “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.”

AB 1576 currently sits in the suspense file, awaiting the passage of a final budget, followed by an up or down vote by the Appropriations Committee (minus any additional witnesses for or against the bill) that will decide if it is killed for the session or allowed to proceed to the floor for a vote by the legislature. While bills that find themselves "in suspense" are considered to have less chance of survival due to the very fact that they cost money the state may not have, they are by no means dead, which is probably why, with so many other more pressing bills in play, the LA Times felt compelled to address a subject that it and the city—and county and state—can't seem to shake.