Friday, May 30, 2014

AB 1576 Clears California Assembly: Time To Hit The Panic Button Now??

Well....what previously was thought to be impossible just happened this week.

Isadore Hall's bill (AB 1576) mandating condoms on all porn shoots, along with 14-day testing and requirements for performers and producers to document their testing and usage and make such documents available on request to government officials, cleared both the California Assembly Appropriations Committee last week, and then was passed by the full Assembly last Wednesday.

In both cases, the vote count was the minimum required for passage (4-1 in the Appropriations Committee; 41-15 in the full Assembly).

The key this time around was that Izzy Hall did a full court press in backing his bill in the Assembly, with the full assistance of AIDS Healthcare Foundation grease money and the pathos of testimony from their paid victims Cameron Bay and Rod Daily, which managed to swiing around even prior opponents of Hall's condom mandate bills. Even Mike Gallo, the Appropriations Committee chairman who basically killed Hall's efforts last year by claiming Constitutional issues and the costs of enforcement, flipped over to AHF's side, along with nearly every Democrat in the Assembly. Other Democrats who may have opposed the bill on principle simply decided to abstain, probably fearing the backlash of AHF money or the apparent fear of being perceived as being against condoms or young "victims" of the "porn industry".

So, now, it's onward to the Senate, where new battles will have to be fought..but the bill that everyone feared is now much closer to Governor Jerry Brown's desk than anyone would have anticipated.

Although the ultimate fate of the bill is still unclear, since even if it passes and Gov Moonbeam affixes his signature, it could face years of legal challenges, the fact that this bill passed the Cali Assembly in spite of the aggressive campaigning of groups like the Free Speech Coalition and the organization of hundreds of performers united to defend their right of determination for STI testing, raises some pretty deep questions about the strategy put forth by opponents of AB 1576. 

Essentially, the main focus of the lead groups of the opposition, namely, the FSC and the website, was that the current system of testing and screening for HIV and other STI's was more than adequate, that mandating condoms would threaten porn production's profits since viewers prefered bareback sex and would not buy condomized porn, and that the laws would drive porn production -- described as a key profit making industry -- out of California and into less protected venues. In effect, the emphasis was towards a classic conservative/libertarian argument against excessive government intervention in business and personal life.

The extent to which that strategy worked was that almost all of the votes in the Assembly against the bill were from that small group of Republicans (Democrats have a supermajority in that body), including even such antiporn conservatives as Tom Donnelly. Problem was, that argument simply didn't fly with the majority of Democrats, and especially not with Black and Latino Democrats, who view libertarian conservative arguments in general as mere defenses of corporate greed and privilege, and who were moved by Bay's eloquent tearful pantomine of being a "victim" of the "porn industry" that simply "abandoned" her at her greatest moment of need. Never mind Bay's own history of deception and even bullying, combined with questions about exactly how she and her boyfriend Daily really did get infected with HIV, and the nature of how she might have been compensated by AHF in exchange for grafting her story to fit their campaign (as earlier "victim" Derrick Burts was compensated as well). All of that was washed away by the flood of the "Condoms would have saved everyone from certain death; and if you oppose this, you are risking people's lives...and besides, it's only a freakin' condom!!!" meme.

 I've been one who has gently and respectfully questioned the conservative approach previously during the Measure B campaign; but a slightly less gentle critique comes from BPPA contributor Ernest Greene, whom has been on the front lines of the condom mandate campaign as both a producer and a board member of the Adult Industry Medical Foundation, one of the main casulties of the condom mandate campaign. On Wednesday, in a comment over at The Real Porn Wikileaks, Ernest restated his concerns about the strategy; his comment deserves reprinting in its entirity.

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