A bill that would have made it a criminal act to shoot pornography in California without condoms got permanently shelved today by the State Senate's Appropriations Committee.
The bill, introduced by SoCal Assemblyman Isadore Hall, seemed well intentioned with a view toward protecting the health and safety of workers in the porn industry, i.e. porn stars. However, as most porn models and industry folk argued over the last several months, the bill was attempting to address a problem that had already been solved almost a decade ago within the industry itself. As porn model Lorelei Lee and others reiterated before the Senate committee last week, no model has been infected with HIV on a porn set since 2004.
The bill, AB 1576, was essentially conceived by the well-funded, Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) the same group that is suing San Francisco over that pharmacy fight in the Castro which had already made an enemy of the porn industry when it helped to pass Measure B in 2012, which made condom-free porn illegal to shoot in Los Angeles County.
And while no one debates the importance of condoms in the ongoing fight to stop the spread of HIV, condoms have never been widely used in straight porn and are increasingly disappearing in gay porn as well, because consumers seem to prefer the condom-free fantasy. In order to address the issue of workplace safety, particularly after a well publicized case of HIV transmission on a porn set in 2004, the porn industry banded together to mandate monthly STD testing of all active performers. That testing protocol was made stricter in 2013, mandating tests every 14 days, after two performers employed by Kink.com contracted HIV off set. Both were in a relationship off set.
AB 1576 was put "in suspense" as of last week, and today the committee decided it should stay there, voting that there was not budget to feasibly implement it, essentially killing it.
Condoms in porn are a hot-button topic, particularly in the gay community, alongside arguments about the efficacy and pragmatic use of the drug Truvada, which has proven in a study to be highly effective in preventing HIV transmission without condom use. Some, like the AHF's Michael Weinstein, argue that no one is ever safe without them, and that condom-free porn only encourages people to have unsafe sex in real life.
Many predicted that if AB 1576 had managed to pass before the full Senate which it might have because it would be politically crazy to vote against the use of condoms most of the porn industry would leave California, likely for Nevada, given the fact that porn with condoms, particularly straight porn, isn't very marketable. SF-based Kink.com had already leased some office space in Las Vegas and made a lot of noise about it in an effort to hopefully sway some votes favor of killing the bill.
Diane Duke of the porn industry advocacy group the Free Speech Coalition had this to say, after today's Appropriations Committee vote:
We’re grateful to the members of the Senate who saw this bill for what it was a bald-faced attempt to exploit performers for political gain. But the assault had an unintended consequences it unified performers and producers in ways that we haven’t seen in decades. Out of this grows a stronger industry, one not unintimidated by harassment campaigns like AB1576. But the battle is not actually over, for we must always work to make sure our productions are safe and legal, that our performers have a strong voice in their own sexual health, and that we keep a thriving industry in California.
So, we won't be saying goodbye to Kink.com anytime soon.
Maybe it's time for a tour?