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Responding to pleas to address a burgeoning public health issue in the adult entertainment industry, the California Assembly on Tuesday advanced a measure requiring the use of protection like condoms in pornographic movies.

Assembly Bill 1576 garnered the bare minimum 41 votes necessary for passage. Abstaining from voting were several Assembly members from the Los Angeles area, where the porn industry is a significant force.

Protecting adult actors has become a recurring focus for Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, whose attempt last year fell short. Hall argues that unsafe sex poses an imminent health hazard, pointing to a number of porn performers who have contracted HIV. AB 1576 is his latest effort.

"This industry has been largely self-regulated and has done an inadequate job of protecting its employees," Hall argued on the Assembly floor. "We need to begin to treat the adult film industry just like any other legitimate, legal business in California," he added. "Legitimate businesses are required to protect employees from injury in the workplace."

Opposing the bill is California's powerful adult entertainment industry, represented by a group called the Free Speech Coalition. Rigorous testing for sexually transmitted diseases makes Hall's bill unnecessary, they contend. They warn that new restrictions would muffle an economic engine that generates $9 to $13 billion a year, according to a committee analysis.

Los Angeles County already requires condom use for adult movies filmed within county lines. If the rule blankets all of California, according to opponents like the Valley
Industry and Commerce Association, pornographic movies will join the trend of film productions relocating to other states.

Industry critics have also raised constitutional issues with the testing regimen, administered by California's Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, the bill would mandate. Studios would need to document that employees had consented to the release of testing data, an imperative skeptics called unworkable for employers.

"What this is is a mandate, and this is a mandate that I'm afraid these businesses are going to have trouble meeting," said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks.

PHOTO: A health educator with the County of Sacramento opens a packet that includes condoms and information to get tested for SDTs during a public health fair at Sacramento State on April 12, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Lezlie Sterling.



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