The ninth US Court of Appeals in San Francisco as of late enabled a legitimate test to the statewide boycott on prostitution to continue. The decision upsets a lower court’s choice to hurl the case out a year ago.
During the Thursday hearing, moderate Judge Carlos Bea pondered so anyone might hear: “For what reason would it be a good idea for it to be unlawful to offer something that it’s lawful to give away?”
“We would like to see this awful law struck down, with the goal that consenting grown-ups who be associated with prostitution are essentially regarded as private natives once more, and are managed all the protection and established rights thereof,” she said.
Louis Sirkin, an attorney for the plaintiffs, cited a Supreme Court decision that struck down gay sex bans as evidence for their case. The 2003 ruling, in Lawrence vs. Texas, found that consensual sexual conduct was part of the “personal and private life of the individual”, and protected by the due process liberty right.
The case revives a long-running argument in which both sides invoke protecting vulnerable sex workers. Proponents of decriminalising sex work argue that an ancient, consensual activity should be allowed and that making it illegal hurts marginalised members of society. Opponents warn that removing criminal penalties would embolden pimps and validate abuse of women.
Numerous civil rights and LGBT advocacy organisations have supported the case, arguing in a court filing that sex between consensual adults should not be illegal. They also argued that gay and transgender people are disproportionately affected by the prohibition because they are more often targeted for prosecution – whether or not they’re actually engaged in sex work – and that women selling sex are arrested more than men buying it.
“We see this is as an important issue both as a matter of liberty and as a matter of equality”, said Amanda Goad, an LGBTQ rights staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of California.
“There’s a huge difference between consensual sex work and exploitative sex trafficking – I think we’re all agreed that sex trafficking is a big problem that shouldn’t be acceptable by any stretch. What we’re saying needs to be decriminalised here is voluntary work”, Ms Goad said, arguing that criminalisation harms sex workers because “you can’t really go to the police when you’re feeling unsafe, you can’t do anything about an exploitative workplace or wage theft”.
The state, meanwhile, argued that the ban did not restrict consensual sex itself, but the sale and purchase of it. Deputy Attorney General Sharon O’Grady, the attorney for the state, argued that banning commercial sex helped protect against violence, drug use, and trafficking as well.“The state is not telling anyone who they can sleep with,” Ms O’Grady said.
Supporting California’s contention are various groups against sex trafficking. These associations contended in a court recording that “prostitution is innately unsafe and is necessarily associated with sex trafficking, drugs, ruthless physical brutality, assault, and murder”.
The documentation cautions that legitimizing prostitution would engage pimps and traffickers.