Gatto Doesn’t Appreciate Izzy Hall’s Remarks; AB 332 Would Have Prompted Extensive Lawsuits He Says

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A bill requiring the use of condoms on adult film production sets across California has stalled in the state Assembly, while separate legislation to expand the distribution of condoms in prisons is moving forward to a floor vote on Wednesday.

AB 332, authored by Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, seeks to build upon the Los Angeles County measure passed by voters last year that requires porn actors to use condoms while filming within the county, a law that has stalled production here and has film companies scouting locations elsewhere in California.

The Assembly bill cleared the Labor Committee in April, but the Appropriations Committee unanimously voted to shelve the legislation on Friday, with its chairman citing constitutional concerns and the cost of fighting expected legal challenges.

Hall, however, vowed to keep pushing the issue, saying he is trying to protect the health of actors in the porn industry.

He blasted the chairman of the committee, Assemblyman Mike Gatto [pictured] – a Democrat who represents part of the San Fernando Valley, the home of the porn industry.

“Assemblymember Mike Gatto has put porn profits above the need to protect workers in California,” Hall said. “He gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘money shot.’ ”

Gatto said he understood Hall’s intention behind the bill, but he did not appreciate his colleague’s remarks.

“One is always disappointed with a member of the Legislature who uses undignified language,” Gatto said.

Gatto added that the 17-member appropriations committee agreed it was difficult to separate the constitutional concerns of the bill with the financial impact it would have on the state.

“A legislator has about as much right telling a performer to use condoms as we have telling Rush Limbaugh to wear a dunce cap during his radio shows,” Gatto said. “Had the bill passed, we would have had extensive lawsuits.”

Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the organization that sponsored the bill and the county ballot measure, said he is confident the message of protection and safety for those who work in the adult film industry will prevail.

“We are still in the early rounds of the fight for protection of porn performers,” Weinstein said in a written statement.

“You don’t win every round. We won’t stop. There are still three months in this legislative year, which is more than enough time to successfully provide statewide protections for adult film workers.”

AHF introduced and supported the L.A. County Measure B – the “Safer Sex Initiative” – last year, to prevent sexually transmitted diseases spreading from the industry to the mainstream public. Voters passed the measure in November and it took effect immediately in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. Other jurisdictions, such as Ventura County and Simi Valley, later passed similar ordinances, in part out of concerns over porn companies relocating to their areas.

Weinstein believes California voters would support a similar measure statewide.

“Since it is apparent that a powerful politician like Assemblyman Mike Gatto favors pornographers over performers, we may in the end need to take this issue directly to California voters,” Weinstein said. “We have no doubt that they would overwhelmingly approve condoms in porn the way that L.A. County voters did.”

The adult film industry largely opposes mandatory condom use because they say viewers who turn to porn to watch sexual fantasy would be turned off.

Hall argues that condoms can be digitally removed from films to address those concerns.

Actors also have said self-regulation – which requires porn actors to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases every 15 to 30 days – works well.

Once an actor has completed testing, his or her name is entered into a confidential database, viewed only by directors on sets. Performers also fear that the industry will move underground to avoid government regulation, which could place actors and actresses at risk from those who avoid getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

“We are grateful that lawmakers have chosen the best interest of California’s taxpayers and the adult industry over AB 332’s misguided legislation,” Diane Duke, president of the Free Speech Coalition said in a statement. “The adult industry creates a tremendous amount of revenue and jobs for California. We have effective, successful standards in place to protect performers. This ridiculous bill was a solution without a problem.”

Meanwhile, a bill introduced by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, that would make condoms available in state prisons unanimously passed the Appropriations committee. Bonta has said that while sexual activity is illegal in prisons, it does occur, increasing the risk of HIV. His bill, AB 999 included results of a pilot program conducted inside Solano State Prison that showed that when condoms are distributed, they are used.

Gatto said the bill passed the Appropriations committee because it made financial sense.

The bill is expected to be presented on the Assembly floor on Wednesday.

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