Can the adult movie industry either wrap up one of its key resources or successfully wrap itself in the First Amendment and its possible protections from new regulation by the city of Los Angeles, and, maybe Los Angeles County? The answer may take a few reels …The Los Angeles City Council has voted 9-1 for a new ordinance to require all porn performers to wear condoms during their filming in the city — but this measure can be enforced only if any kind of municipal permits are involved (it does not affect shoots in studios, for example).

Council members acted on Jan. 17 after the L.A.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation collected enough signatures to force a June municipal ballot measure on a porn-condom ordinance, a voter consideration that could have cost the financially strapped city millions for an election decision. (The group is still pushing for a similar countywide ballot initiative for November.)

The porn industry vehemently opposes the condom ordinance — signed into law on Tuesday by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa — and has threatened to leave Los Angeles if it takes effect.  The fear that the multibillion-dollar industry would flee its San Fernando Valley base may not exactly send shivers through municipal policy-makers and there may be constitutional challenges to this ordinance long before any props get packed for any moves.

Indeed, those who advocate for the adult entertainment industry quickly have invoked the First Amendment. As stated in Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett, “the fundamental rule of protection under the First Amendment” is “that a speaker has the autonomy to choose the content of his own message.”  The racy artistes may argue the L.A. condom ordinance contravenes this principle, effectively preventing the industry and its participants from choosing the content of their message — they may contend that if they can’t    produce condom-free scenes, they can’t portray sex as they wish creatively under constitutional guarantee.

If the ordinance is deemed to be content based, it must pass strict judicial scrutiny to be upheld. This means officials must be able to show the ordinance serves a compelling public interest and it is narrowly drawn to achieve this.

Porn advocates can diminish the public interest argument by noting that health measures already are in place to cut the risk of HIV-AIDS infection through mandatory testing in the industry for sexually transmitted diseases. The city, of course, can offer the rebuttal that STDs and HIV-AIDS infections occur in the industry and create public health concerns.

It is less clear, due to the legally required STD testing, whether the city’s condom ordinance is drawn sufficiently narrowly to promote prevention of HIV-AIDS and other sexually transmitted ills.

While this ordinance may seem a simple solution to address a decidedly public concern, it could put policy-makers on a dicey path of government intervention. Six months from now could Los Angeles residents, concerned by safety, noise and the proliferation of images of violence, seek a new ordinance to outlaw explosions in action films like the Mission Impossible franchise because, among things, they compromise the safety of stunt men?

Alas, as legal scholars already have seen in recent U.S. Supreme Court terms, when some justices dubbed conservatives have taken what analysts have termed liberal positions and vice versa, First Amendment matters can make for some strange bedfellows.