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January 28, 2016

Free Speech Meeting Lays Out Adult Industry Challenges for 2016

LAS VEGAS—To say attendance at Free Speech Coalition's Producers' Meeting at AEE was piss poor would be an understatement. Roughly a dozen of the chairs in Studio 1A were occupied—a fact that didn't go unnoticed by FSC Board Chair Jeffrey Douglas. "I see so many familiar faces in the room," he began, adding, "That's actually regrettable, because the message we have to convey in order to guarantee the survival of the industry has to be communicated, and most of you already know the message, so the information we'll be giving you today, we have to rely on you to pass on to your peers, competitors, everyone in the industry. We will be doing our best to communicate it in every form that we can, but there's nothing like an in-person face-to-face, so we are recruiting you to be our army, to pass on the message, because this is a fight for our survival." Douglas's first duty, though, was to introduce FSC's new executive director, Eric Paul Leue, a sexual rights activist who most recently has served as director for sexual health and advocacy at Kink.com and who, in 2014, circulated a petition to have Michael Weinstein removed as the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) for various reasons. Leue has also been a member of the Los Angeles Commission on HIV for nearly two years. But the main thrust of the meeting was to discuss two issues: The upcoming CalOSHA Standards Board meeting on February 18 where a move will be made to adopt new Section 5193.1 to the California Health Code, which would require, among other things, that all adult performers use condoms and other barrier protections during sex scenes, and also the ballot initiative created by AHF's Weinstein which, while incorporating all the restrictions in Section 5193.1, would pose even more onerous requirements on the industry. Douglas then turned the floor over to attorney Karen Tynan, who has defended several adult companies against AHF-inspired CalOSHA proceedings. "This new regulation does not endorse the PASS system nor the 14-day testing, but instead relies on condoms for oral, vaginal and anal sex," she summarized. "It relies upon producers to provide vaccinations, testing every three months, various barrier protections, medical surveillance of performers, in that their testing records would be kept—I don't know any producer that wants to keep medical records, and under the state and federal guidelines, once you have possession of a medical record, you're required to keep it for 30 years." Tynan and Douglas urged all adult industry members, particularly performers, to attend the CalOSHA Standards Board meeting and register their opposition to the proposed Health Code changes. "As California goes, so the West will go," Tynan warned, "and I would rather fight now than to try to slink under the fence and fight later." "The good point about Feb. 18 is, this is the last possible date where they can decide on this," Leue noted. "So they cannot postpone it; they have to take it up on FEb. 18 or it will be outdated, so to speak, because they only have one year to decide on it after taking up the issue. So if we make it through Feb. 18, and if we bombard them with public comments so their time to meet is incredibly short, if we have enough voices saying no to this, we may possibly sway the vote and they'll have to try all over again." Douglas then turned the meeting's attention to the Weinstein ballot initiative, and after some background was provided on the California legislature's growing acceptance of the adult industry, due in large part to FSC's lobbying efforts over the years, and Weinstein's attempts to paint the industry as anti-society through his various CalOSHA complaints and sponsored legislation, Douglas charged that if the initiative passes, "You will be financing his lawsuits. You get to pay him for the privilege of suing you, because he gets a percentage of the fines, and the fines get huge." "If it is passed, people will go out of business, people will be put out of business," he warned. "And if it's challenged, you're talking about five years before an appellate court rules, and there will be carnage during that time... It has to be killed now." Douglas also made the point that the initiative covers much more material than a cursory reading of it would indicate. "This is straight out of the initiative. What is covered: 'Anything recorded, streamed or in real time,' video, film, multimedia and 'other representation of adult films'; no idea what the hell that means," he stated, "but it clearly covers a single still image. So if you are an advertising entity, if you are an affiliate program that has a still image that depicts non-barrier-protected sexual activity, you are covered by this and you have liability." The group was also informed that thanks to recent changes in the law, a committee of the state legislature will be looking at the entire initiative, and it could require changes in the wording before the initiative is placed on the ballot, or could keep it off the ballot entirely. It was also noted that the attorney general's legislative analyst had concluded that the initiative would cost taxpayers "tens of millions of dollars" annually in lost tax revenue. "We need you to convey the message," Douglas told the assemblage. "We'll do everything we can through social media, billboards, smoke signals; we'll scream ... It requires you to understand that this is an existential crisis. We have to be the army that recruits people to say, 'We can't live with this.' ... The chambers of commerce, all of the groups that would normally not give a rat's ass about the adult industry, and if we caught on fire, wouldn't piss on us to put it out, they do not like this initiative. It is dangerous for their industry as well. It is a dangerous precedent [and] they are ready to fight." Leue added that he had been networking with several nonprofit, non-adult industry-related organizations which have expressed concerns regarding the Weinstein initiative beyond its threat to industry livelihoods. "We have these alliances, which is a huge benefit, because political groups listen to these nonprofits," Leue explained. "They say, 'Wait a minute; San Francisco AIDS Foundation is in my district. Wait; they're opposed to this? I need to talk to them and find out why they're opposed to this.' Suddenly we have somebody at the state level who gives a shit, and we've been very systematically going through the ranks, building these partnerships, these coalitions, and rather than going in and saying, 'You have to agree with us,' we said, 'Here are the books; this is what we have to offer and we ask you for your advice to tell us if what we're doing is either right or wrong.' So we gave them the free choice and they came back and said to us, 'You're right.' ... So now what we have is, we have political clubs in San Francisco and Los Angeles already distributing internal notes saying, 'Can we as a group vote to oppose this state ballot initiative?', which will give us incredible leverage on the state level." Douglas proposed that adult producers, performers and other activists sit down for a strategy session on how to oppose the initiative well before the November vote.

 
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